The Changing Face of AIDS : ‘I Sat at Home for the Next Three Years Waiting to Die’ : Lynn Chamberlain, 25, Los Angeles


I was 21 and a pre-law senior at Tuskegee University hen I started feeling major fatigue. Nothing serious, I thought.

At that time, in 1991, the only people I saw speak about AIDS were gay white males. I didn’t think it applied to me.

I came home to my mom’s house, went to our family doctor and said, “Test me for everything.” When we went for the results, the nurse put my file in the examining room with my mom and me. I looked inside, saw “HIV-Positive” and started crying and screaming, “Oh my god, oh my god, I’m only 21 and I’m going to die.”


The doctor sent us to an AIDS specialist that same day. The specialist said, “Tell me about your boyfriend.”

I said he’s 28, tall, handsome and I met him in June. We were together all summer.

He asked if my boyfriend was bisexual. I said, “No way. This guy is very masculine and very honest. We’re so close, he would have told me if he were.”

Then I went straight to my boyfriend’s place and told him I’d tested positive. He did not act surprised or shocked. In fact, we argued and I left because he refused to go for a test.

A week later he called me, crying, to admit he had known for two years he was HIV-positive and that he was, in fact, bisexual. I have never seen him since.

I didn’t go back to college. Basically I sat at home for the next three years, waiting to die.

Then I felt a need to go public. I’d heard about many young women becoming infected the same way I had been. I’d joined Women at Risk for counseling and support, and I started speaking for them.


I look healthy. It shocks people to learn I have HIV. Makes them realize they can’t tell anything by looking at someone. I want to stress this for everyone, and the African American community especially: Men with HIV look healthy. Many won’t say they have HIV because they have not yet accepted or dealt with their diagnosis. They can kill--even the nicest of them.

For a long time there was nothing I wanted to say to my former boyfriend. Now I really want to ask him: “Why did you do this to me?”