My name is Gina Brown and I am a woman living with HIV. I was diagnosed 17 years ago while pregnant with my daughter. I can still remember hearing the words, “you have AIDS and you’re going to die.” Yes, that is how I was told that I am positive. In the beginning of my diagnosis I was devastated – even though I was once on crack I didn’t think it could happen to me, ashamed, angry – at first with him and then with myself, afraid – people might find out, and guilty – what if my baby gets it? I am grateful that another provider told me about a study going on to see if certain medications prevent a mother living with HIV from passing it on to her baby. I was afraid but willing to give my baby every opportunity to be HIV-negative. I agreed to participate and my daughter was born 11/29/1994 and she is HIV-negative! The study, ACTG 076, was very successful. Today, mother-to-child transmission rates are less than 1% with medication and appropriate care.
Receiving my diagnosis in the manner that I did made me want to live; I didn’t just want to live but I also wanted to show other women that it was possible to live with HIV. I educated myself on HIV, cervical and breast cancer, domestic violence, homelessness and commercial sex work. Although we all come from different places our needs, desires and dreams are similar. Today I am a Medical Case Manager at NO/AIDS Task Force in New Orleans, LA, a recent graduate from college, and now attending Grad School! I am a mother, a grandmother, student, and friend. I am still a work in progress to be all of the things I am going to be. I refuse to let HIV stop me from accomplishing my goals, no matter how big or small. I surround myself with people who are supportive and real and I don’t have time for negativity in my world. I’m playing the hand I was dealt and guess what? I keep coming up a WINNER! My motto in life “It is what it is.” This is my journey and I plan on riding this thing until the wheels fall off!