The odds were stacked against me, I was always told, because I am black, a single mother of three, a welfare recipient, and a convicted drug felony who is living with AIDS. I was diagnosed with HIV in October 2005 while in jail, and I replay in my mind the moment the Health Department came and gave the news. The two guys handed me a folder and told me I was HIV positive. I thought I was going to die. I was uneducated and I really didn't know what HIV was about, except I did know that Magic Johnson had it. After being positive for almost three years, I was then diagnosed with AIDS in November 2008. I was still in denial about being positive and I was even going to the doctor as if everything was okay. After getting the AIDS diagnosis, something just happened in me. I wanted to live for me and my kids. From that point on, I set out to educate myself so that I could educate others. I know some people
may think I'm glorifying HIV/AIDS, but I'm not. I'm trying to save our daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, cousins, friends and anyone in general who is having sex without a condom.
Having AIDS is hard for me because I now have to add taking medication to my already stressful life. I have bad days, but I try not to let it show. There are days when I come home and I just don't want to take no more of those damn pills. Yeah, yeah, I know it's saving my life but it's not you standing in that kitchen trying to get those three pills down when you are just tired, and with my oldest son standing there like he's the parent forcing a child to take their meds. I just want others not to have to go through this. I know that the people who become infected didn't ask to be infected. It happened because we did not protect our self. It's not as if I stood on the side of the street with a sign saying, "HIV COME GET ME." My community, my teachers, my church didn't give me the knowledge to know about how to protected myself. Instead they let the blind lead the blind. Now I have to deal with the stigma of having AIDS. I have to be careful because I'm afraid what the kids at my children's school might say or do to them. I shouldn't have to live my life like this.
I pay taxes just like the next person. I work every day in the hot sun just like the next person. I'm a parent just like the next person. I'm educated just like the next person. The only difference is I have AIDS. So what gives my community, my neighbors, or anyone the right to single me out? I'm human. One of your closet friends or relatives may have HIV/AIDS as well but is afraid to let you know because of comments you've made about others who are positive.
We as individuals can help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS by becoming educated, which can teach us the true facts. Most of all we need our churches, schools, and governments to take responsibility for their role in HIV/AIDS. This is no longer a moral issue--it's life or death. Talk to your kids about sex. It's time for all parents to take responsibility for their children learning about sex and the consequences of having unprotected sex. The one thing I tell people when they say I don't want to use a condom is, "getting pregnant is the least of your worries because one day he/or she will be grown up, but HIV/AIDS is for a life time." Wrap it up and know your status.
NOTE: J'Mia Edwards is featured in the documentary film, "The Other City," opening in theaters in New York City and Washington, D.C. on Sept. 17th and Los Angeles on Sept. 24th. Find more information on Facebook and Twitter.