Women Who Contracted HIV From Serial Dater Speak Out

My mom called me in late July 2007 after she caught a brief clip on the local news about a man intentionally infecting others with HIV. She said she had dated him and was scared. I looked it up on the Internet, and as soon as I read that he was a martial arts instructor, my heart sank as I knew it was the man she had dated. We went to Dallas County to get her tested the next day, and waited the slow and anxiety-stricken hour for the rapid results. For confidentiality purposes, they had to give her the results first in a private room. It took too long. Something was wrong. When they walked me back to the room and opened the door, she was crying and nodding, and I knew instantly what the results were. I couldn't cry. I could only hold her hand, tremble and listen in shock. It's not a moment we ever expected to have, but one we will never forget. Our worst news was yet to come at the first visit to the infectious disease doctor when he informed us that her T-Cells were around 35 (normal being 1000+), the viral count hundreds of thousands (normal being 0), and the doctor said, "you are in a really deep hole and I am not sure I can dig you out, but I will try with your help." Since then, it's been all about educating ourselves about HIV and AIDS.

Disclosing to others was difficult, but my mom is painfully honest, so there was little choice in the matter. The challenge was finding the right words and following it up with enough education about the disease, so that even family members in small-town rural Texas who have never been touched by HIV could not only understand, but not be so afraid. Fortunately, everyone has been wonderful and nothing but loving and supportive.

There have been a lot of tears, fear, and frightening doctor's visits, but there have also been a lot of hugs, laughter and a greater appreciation for every day of life, and all of its miracles, however large or small. News from the doctor of an increase in T-Cells is better news than winning the lottery. What we might have perceived as problems in the past are tiny dots compared to what she faces. However, she continues to astonish and inspire me and all those around her by facing her health status as she does everything in her life -- with strength, courage, faith, and an unbelievably positive attitude. My mom lives with HIV/AIDS every day, but it does not define who she is.

It's still difficult to hear Becky tell the story and hear her pain and sadness. Becky never questioned or judged me. Looking back, it was almost as though she became "my" parent. The emotions and situations at times were overwhelming and knowing she was there for me gave me hope and the strength to go forward. It took courage to disclose it to her, but I cannot imagine how I would have survived without her love, compassion and encouragement.

What I do know is that if we breathe we will make mistakes and wrong choices. I did -- it can happen to anyone. First and foremost, face it, deal with it, keep your faith in a higher power and always have hope, never, never give up on yourself or the good that can come from a bad situation.

All of Philippe's victims were looking for love. As a result of what appears to be a fatal and end-all situation, I found that love. My significant other is a 20 year HIV survivor I found through Poz.com, a dating website for men and women who have HIV/AIDS.

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