Pretty, successful, straight and female, Regan Hofmann is not what people may imagine when they think of someone infected with HIV, but she has lived with it for 10 years.
The journalist, who kept her status secret to many people in her life for so long, is going public and was recently named the new editor in chief of Poz, a magazine for people infected with AIDS and HIV.
Hofmann said she was infected with HIV at age 28 by having unprotected sex twice with her heterosexual boyfriend. She had never thought of herself as being at risk.
"I had been very careful throughout my entire life, and I did not perceive that I was at risk and I was on birth control," Hofmann said. "I knew the young man, and we were close and I knew his family and I would have taken him home to my parents."
Her boyfriend at the time found out when she was tested, and both were floored by the results.
"I was completely shocked to find out I'm part of a rising group of people who have the disease," Hofmann said. "As you know, one out of two people on the planet who is HIV infected is a woman and one out of three in the United States is a woman, which is why I came forward."
This month, to commemorate AIDS's 25th birthday, Hofmann told her story in an essay for Vogue magazine. She wants people to know that AIDS is not just restricted to poor Africans, homosexual males and drug users. It is increasing among teenagers and people over the age of 50. The biggest increase is in women. Hofmann said 8,000 American women were infected with the disease each year.
"I think people turned attention another way, and this is a figure that really got to me," she said. "Anyone who has sex without a condom is at risk. I came forward because I wanted to make people talk about AIDS again on the occasion of the 25th anniversary. I thought it was especially important that we resuscitate the topic and at Poz magazine, we've helped the community for a long time and we'd like to educate a larger community."
Since she was diagnosed, Hofmann said she had seen perceptions of HIV/AIDS change.
Friends who would barely hug her at one time now give her a "full body press," Hofmann said. Education, she said, has been the difference. Hofmann, who was also married for a time, would someday like to have children because the drugs she takes eliminate the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby.
Ten years after she learned the bad news, Hofmann estimates that she has taken 48,000 pills as part of her complicated drug regimen that suppresses the disease.
"You can have a normal life with HIV," she said. "People can protect themselves. Of course, those with HIV are very aware of it."
To learn more about living with HIV/AIDS, visit the Poz Web site.
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