Stephanie Amande, 27, Canyon Country: I try to look nice and keep myself up. People need to see how normal we look. There’s a certain AIDS phobia out there.
I got infected after my husband and I separated. I had two children and I hoped to find a good, solid relationship. I finally found one--a man who was so wonderful to my kids, so loving and so giving.
He was in Los Angeles to look for work, couldn’t find any, and eventually went back to New Jersey. I followed him there in June, ’93, and got my own apartment.
Our relationship blossomed from friendship to love. We had always used condoms, but soon we trusted each other completely and planned our future together. We decided we didn’t need condoms any more. I became pregnant.
It was his first child and he was thrilled. The prenatal clinic was doing blood work and offered an AIDS test as part of the package.
I said, “Sure, why not?” I never gave it a second thought. I was not at risk.
The test was positive. I said, “There’s no way I can have this. My husband is healthy and the man I plan to marry hasn’t been sick one day. I have had no contact with anyone else.”
The doctor said it has to be one of those two men.
My fiance said it wasn’t him. But when he was tested he had full-blown AIDS. He had so much of it in his body that of course I got it.
I came back to L.A. with my two kids and six months pregnant. I knew my fiance would not live long and I wanted to be near my family.
My daughter was born in April of ’94. She is HIV-negative.
Thank God I took that AIDS test. I breast-fed my other two children and if I didn’t know I was HIV-positive, I would have breast-fed her and infected her through my milk. My fiance came to see his daughter but was so sick he had to leave after two days.
I lead a good life, thankful every day that my kids are normal and healthy. I am actively involved with support groups for parents who are HIV-positive or have children with HIV.
I do speaking engagements to help educate people, and I even met President Clinton and his cat, Socks, in the Oval Office of the White House for World AIDS day.
It’s amazing how much good can come from something so bad.