Her hair is in ponytails. She smiles easily, whether excited or nervous - her eyes dark and dancing. Mickey Mouse adorns her sweatshirt. LaToya is just a kid - a kid everyone in town knows because she's HIV positive.
When asked, 'How are you feeling?' LaToya looks to her mother and smiles. Jeannie nods, the sign LaToya was looking for. It's okay to speak.
"I take 14 pills a day. On the weekends I take 16 a day. Eight in the morning and eight at night." She wants a reaction - not sympathy; she wants you to know that she's strong, disciplined, and that she knows what she's up against.
Phil's Story: One of my AIDS mentors, Joey, gave me the straight skinny on hospital stays. ALWAYS have a container of candy in your room and offer it to all of the staff. It's a nice gesture and you are always sure to have someone stopping by to check on you. ALWAYS remember - your doctor is trying to help you. Your job is to help him or her do that. Don't be a doormat but don't be a demanding queen either. ALWAYS smile (when possible and appropriate) and talk to the staff. Ask them about their day. If they do a good job, tell them for cryin' out loud! Talk about their problems. Share a joke. Pay a complement. It will do you more good than it does them. And you will be remembered if you have to come back (and chances are you will).
Above all, try to stay in the moment - don't live in the past or the future. It's tough to do but every time you get there, you get to truly live. For those of you who have recently been diagnosed or sero-converted, this is probably not a death sentence. Your life and its quality can be lengthened and improved as new treatments are discovered. Be optimistic. Celebrate your life. If you really look, you can find something to celebrate. I celebrated my being able to keep real food down after not eating for nearly two months. Go to DisneyWorld. You'll feel seven years old again. It will lengthen your years and brighten your life. Oh, and ride the "Tower of Terror". What a blast!
HIV + Me: An illustrated (OK, it's a comic-strip) guide to living with HIV and AIDS. When I first got the diagnosis, I remember complaining to a fellow friends (also HIV+) "Why don't they hand you something when you get news like this?" A subsequent therapy session, general b.s..-ing with friends, and soon, "HIV + Me" was evolved.
12/19/2001: vive la france
12/19/2001: princess, redux
12/19/2001: yemen and rumsfeld
12/18/2001: you're NOT in the army now
12/18/2001: interesting donation
12/18/2001: shame on winn dixie, indeed
12/18/2001: saudi princess
12/17/2001: new resolve
12/17/2001: a victim of the attack ... yeah, right
12/17/2001: polluters ho!