I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Normalcy of HIV

My sister recently started her own blog, primarily about her family's adoption process. However, she wrote a blog post about me the other day, and the seeming “normalcy“ of HIV. 

A few days after reading my sister’s blog post, I was riding on the bus to work. For some reason, the bus was extra crowded that morning (note: I say crowded in the American sense of the word… to Zambians or Peace Corps Volunteers all around the world, the bus would still be considered to be pretty empty). Anyways, according to my American perception of things, the bus was crowded, and we were squeezing in and touching up against each other. Nothing really stood out to me though. I was just taking a bus to work, sharing it with others on their way to work or other downtown activities. It was just a normal morning. I was just a normal girl on the bus.

And then my mind started wandering, and I remembered “Oh yeah, I have HIV.” (I had gone for days without thinking about it).

“But none of these people on this bus know that I have HIV. They are all pushed up against me, and they have no idea. To them, I am just a normal girl, on a normal morning, taking a bus to work.”

I smiled to myself. I thought, “Yeah, this is okay. I have HIV… but, so what? Its my life now. I’m used to it. It is my new normal.”

I’m not sure if this post is really making sense to others. Maybe you have to actually go through it in order to understand it. I guess I’m just trying to say that I am at a point where I can find some peace in this. It is becoming old news. It is now simply just a part of my life. It is a pill that I take each night. But I am still me. I am still normal. I can walk around and be myself. I can work. I can take a bus to work, and I don’t have to feel sad when I remember that I have HIV. I can interact with others, whether they know about my HIV status or not. I can smile about it. I can laugh about it. I can talk about it, if and when I want to. I can forget about it for long periods of time, and pull it back out when I need to. It is, and always will be, a part of me, yet it does not define me. I can keep on living.


  1. Love this! Exactly what I was trying to say about my side of it! Love you and our new normal!

  2. Love this post! I've tried to explain the same thing about our daughter. We totally forget she even has HIV. I call it our "non-issue." :) Proud of you for speaking up and living out loud!

    1. So glad you found my sister's blog and my blog! And so glad we found yours!

  3. I can relate...a little bit. I'm an RPCV (Zambia 05-07). Twenty years ago, about this time of year, I was feeling sick. Several doctor visits later, I found out I had cancer. I was 26 years old. I remember feeling stigmatized - whether real or imagined, I am not sure. Nothing like what you face. But I felt different all of a sudden. I was "that girl with cancer". It consumed me - for awhile. I was horrified that I would actually have to take a pill, everyday, maybe for the rest of my life! I felt like my life had taken this radical, unexpected turn. Never would it be the same, never would it be what I had hoped it would be. But time passed. Gradually, I felt normal again. Then, cancer was almost forgotten. Now 20 years have passed. In that 20 years, I have lived my life, even 2+ amazing years in Peace Corps. Looking back, I can't really say how it changed my life. Maybe it did, maybe things would have unfolded the way they did anyway. Twenty years from now, maybe you'll feel the same. You'll look back and maybe it will just be that thing that happened a long time ago. You will, like me, take a pill each day and not think twice about it.

    Not sure why I felt compelled to share this. I must have had a day like you, where I felt "normal" again, no longer just "that girl with cancer".

    Best wishes to you. You are remarkably strong and brave.


  4. Whenever I can't find an empty lane for lap swimming at the gym, I just announce that I have AIDS, and amazingly, the pool clears out!

    Seriously though, 99% of having HIV is mental. I never fully understood this until I became seriously ill with AIDS in 1993, and the huge difference between what I had been dealing with psychologically with HIV and the actual physical illness of AIDS. Luckily, the drugs came along just in time to save my life, and with treatment, no one need go through what I did.

    It took a little over a year after infection (1988) before I came to terms with with HIV. And I think this is true with any huge change in life, traumatic or otherwise. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my first year in the Peace Corps, I was often homesick and lonely, it wasn't until my second year of getting beyond that homesickness that I came to really embrace and love being in Malaysia, and even re-upped for a third year.
    After a little more than a year from my HIV diagnosis (a year of sadness, pain, and regret, and constantly telling myself I could deal with HIV), I woke up one morning with an awaking revelation that permeated me in a life-changing way. It was simply the words, "I am not a victim", For over a year, I was living the life of a victim. But on that morning, I just wasn't any more. My life was mine again, and that changed everything.

    It's been amazing to see how quickly and confidently you are making that same journey. You're an inspiration for many people. Thanks.