I am divorced, with two grown children and a 10-year-old grandchild.
In 1992 I was working at a law firm, and about to be married to a man I had lived with for two years.
About four months before our wedding, he got sick and went into the hospital--and I started getting calls from medical personnel asking unusual questions about his health. I asked did he have something serious. They said he had tuberculosis and other things that didn't make sense. He hadn't been sick a day while he lived with me. In fact, he held down two jobs, was very energetic and we had a fantastic relationship.
So I asked about AIDS. They said they couldn't legally tell me, that I should look him in the eyes and ask him. After much hysteria on my part, I found out the truth and I went that same day to get tested. I was embarrassed to even ask. The results were HIV-positive.
I brought my fiance back to my home and cared for him. We never did figure out where he picked up the virus. He said he had not used drugs, had not been gay, had no blood transfusions. On Oct. 1 of last year he died.
Meanwhile, I did not want my employers or my health insurance company to find out my status, so I used a clinic for my HIV care and my private insurance for any specialists. I did not tell the specialists I had HIV.
A few months after being diagnosed, I went to an insurance-approved doctor for a minor problem. I let him draw blood and within two months I was fired for suddenly "not being a team player." I lost the insurance as well as the job.
This is why most women will not go public. They're afraid of stigma and rejection. Many don't even tell the men in their lives because they fear they'll be dropped and never find another relationship. More important is the issue of losing jobs, insurance, friends, all sorts of everyday support that non-infected people take for granted. What single mother can afford to lose a job and insurance?
Since last September I've been office manager at Being Alive, and I facilitate Women's Link, a group for women from 22 to 42 with HIV and AIDS.
There are more young women who contracted HIV heterosexually than you would ever imagine--but most cannot let anyone know who they are.