Thursday, March 9, 2017

Not just #9 and #10: NWGHAAD, my mom, and my sis

The Office of Women's Health picked me for one of the ambassadors for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. That is on March 10 every year so it's tomorrow.

Image result for nwghaad

There are lots of ambassadors, a group of us. Everybody is doing something different to help educate people about HIV for NWGHAAD.

I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't want to do interviews or videos because I'm shy. I can't plan a big event because I'm just a kid. I don't have money to set something up. I could ask my parents for help, but I'm getting older and trying to do more things on my own. I don't want my parents doing everything for me all my life. I want to make my own way in my life. I'm 15, not a baby. 

I was on Twitter when I got the idea. There was this cute little girl who's 5 years old who dressed up like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman and other important black women for Black History Month. She picked a different person and dressed like one of them every day.

I thought her idea was cool. I decided I would pick a different woman with HIV and tweet about them every day of March if I can. Because there's a lot of women with HIV and they are important. Girls with HIV need to see that we can grow up to be like this.

I'm running out of people and it's only the second week. So if anyone has people they can tell me about, it would help me alot! But today and tomorrow I already have the perfect two people to write about.

I don't have a lot to write because I don't remember much about them. But they are #9 today and #10 tomorrow. My mom and my big sister who are both in heaven.

My mom and my sister are the first two women I ever knew with HIV. My mom, dad, and sister left their home country because of danger and they wanted to stay alive. My mom was pregnant with me and very weak. She already had AIDS, and so did my dad and sister. But they couldn't wait until I was born to leave. They had to rush.

They went as refugees to another country where they could be safe. Even though my mom was weak and sick, she loved me enough to fight to stay alive long enough to nurse me so I could get a little older and have a chance to survive. She died when I was a baby. Then it was just my dad and my sister until they died. 

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My sister was two years older than me. She was always sick and throwing up. I was very sick too because my dad didn't have money to get HIV meds for us that much. But she liked to sing a lot to make me feel better when I was sick. She looked like me.

I don't remember my family much, but I am still alive because they sacrificed their life for me. By going to another country where I had a chance to be safe, and after they died I was able to come to the US and start taking medicine. I had AIDS when I first came to the US, but I started meds and I became undetectable. I have a new family and I have been with them for ten years now. 

It's because my mom, dad, and sister loved me so much that I am here today. I have a great family with parent, brothers, and sisters and I love them, but I will always love my mom, dad, and sister and I will always be thankful they cared so much about me. I dedicate National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and day #9 and #10 to my mom and my sister. 

I was a sick refugee girl dying of AIDS. Now I am a young woman LIVING with HIV. I am going to live my life and help other people so I can make both of my families in heaven and on earth proud. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I'm HIV+ and I care about trans rights and #SB6

Image result for trans bathroom

I hear a lot of things about the people who lived a long time ago, in the early days of HIV before I was born. What they went through was terrible. They were treated like they weren't even human, and even though they were dying every day no one allowed them to have any say in their health care or their own life until they fought to be listened to. I am lucky that I was born at a time when we have a lot more options. I have different medicines I can choose from, not just AZT. I can go to school with other kids who don't have HIV. I have rights. And even though stigma is still around it's not as bad as what older people had to go through.

I think the same way about all the black people who fought for civil rights. They had it much worse than we do now with racism. They couldn't vote. They couldn't live where they wanted to live or work where they wanted to work. They had to use colored bathrooms, drink from colored water fountains, go to colored schools and hospitals. They had to enter through back doors and sit in the colored section if there was a colored section. It was a horrible life to live. They worked hard so things would be better for kids in the future like me. 

Somebody had to be first, even though it wasn't easy to do what they did. And somebody had to be brave enough to care about doing the right thing even though it didn't have anything to do with them. There were HIV negative people who helped fight for people with HIV, and there were white people who marched and protested and fought for people who were not white to have rights. Those people did the right thing because they cared. 

I want to do the right thing to. I'm only a kid and I can't vote yet. But I can do other things. I have a mind and a voice. I can use it to help other people, just like I was helped. I want to be treated with respect and to have rights, and I want other people to have them too. We all deserve them.

So for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Day I am writing about all the bills and news that I have been seeing about not letting transgender people use the restroom. Especially kids. Where I live this is a big thing. It makes me sad, because if I was born at a different time I wouldn't be able to use the bathroom I wanted to use because I am black in the 60's and because I have HIV in the 80's.

They keep saying, "Do you want a man in the restroom with girls?" And acting like girls are going to be in danger. Even though people are saying they are doing this because they are trying to protect girls, nobody asked us girls if we think we need protection or what we think of this whole thing. So I am writing about it. 

I think it has to do with National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Day because transgender people can be women and girls, and they can have HIV or need to know how to prevent it. But even if it doesn't seem to have enough to do with women and girls, part of being a woman is standing up for other people and what you believe in. So I am growing into a woman today. 

Below is my poem for NWGHAAD.

Because of people who came before me I'm able to live,
Life doesn't end just because you're HIV positive.
I am supposed to write something for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
And today it's my choice
To use my voice
To say something important that I've been meaning to say.

I don't like news so I choose the 
Not to read.
But sometimes I need 
To know, so I go
Online to take a look.
And I regret it. Because now I'm shook.
I'm depressed but all the negativity that I see,
There are kids like me who can't even pee!
Because people are really upset that they're trans,
Why do you care? They were made by God's hands.
I'm not scared to have them in the bathroom stall,
Actually, I'm not scared of them at all.
All this mess reminds me of how you used to be
With people like me who have HIV.
They built a separate bathroom for Ryan White.
Just because he had AIDS. That wasn't right.
You shouldn't be scared of people who are different than you,
We're just trying to do the best we can do!
Whether trans or not, HIV positive or negative,
We're still people. Please let us live.
There is no cure for what I've got
So I have to live with it, like it or not.
I was born with HIV
It's a part of me
And Gavin Grimm 
Is a him who just wants to pee. 
We have come a long way in the HIV fight
But I can't feel comfortable if other people don't get the same rights.
You used to fear people like me, but now you're more informed.
I hope you stop fearing trans kids for not being what you assigned when they were born.

(This post is also published on HIVE Online.)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I'm just a normal girl with HIV

(Girls Health interviewed me for March 2017 for a blog post on their website! Here is the interview.)

Meet Mina K. She’s a teen who was born with HIV. However, Mina is determined not to let her status steal her joy. She says that HIV isn’t the boss — she is!

Mina is a blogger and youth advocate educating others about HIV and AIDS, which is why she’s serving as a National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day ambassador. She wants to share her story to help others understands what it’s like living with HIV.  In her interview, Mina opens up about being born with HIV, what it’s been like to share her status, and educating others. She also shares her thoughts on what you can do to help end the stigma and on healthy relationships.

How old are you?
I am 15 years old.

Will you tell us about how you learned you had a health condition?
When I was a little girl, I knew something was different about me because some people acted weird and mean towards me. I didn’t know why, though. When I was five years old, my new mom (I was adopted) told me that I was going to need to start taking a medicine every day to help keep me strong and healthy. She said the medicine was like a boxer or a soldier inside my body that would fight off a “sickness” I was born with. I didn’t understand what she meant because I didn’t speak much English, so I thought she said I was born with a “citrus” (like a fruit) not a “sickness!”

Can you talk a little bit about your experience sharing your status with others?
The people I told first were my friends from elementary school. I was scared that they wouldn't accept me, but I didn't want to keep it from them. All of them accepted me and told me, "It’s OK." I feel very grateful to have them in my life.
I have told some other people, like teachers and Bible study leaders, and they accepted me, too. I have had a few friends who acted funny about it — like they were going to get sick by being around me. That’s annoying, but most people have been nice. Maybe it’s because I’m still a kid.

I know people are really scared of HIV and don’t understand it. I always worry about how people are going to act. I had a dentist who did not want to clean my teeth, and I had someone tell me to leave a birthday party (my mom got SO mad!) because they knew I had HIV. And I remember how some people used to treat me when I was little, and I didn’t like that.

It’s easier for me to tell people who I don’t know. That’s why I like blogging and advocating. It’s not the same as telling people you are going to see every day. It hurts when classmates and friends reject you more than strangers.

How did learning your status affect you growing up?
Sometimes it would make me so stressed to know that every night I take my meds, it means I'm still sick and will be for a long time. But my parents always tell me that I am just like everyone else even though I have HIV. They raised me to believe HIV is nothing to be ashamed of and as long as I take good care of myself and take my meds, I can grow up and live a long life.

Something that has helped me is being around other people with HIV who know what it’s like to live with it. My family is involved with different things having to do with HIV. I went to camps for kids with HIV and kids with family members who have HIV.

Can you talk about healthy relationships?
People with HIV need to love themselves, and people who don’t have HIV need to love and accept us. A lot of people with HIV feel like nobody will want them because of HIV, so they let people treat them badly. We deserve to have healthy relationships filled with love and to be treated with respect.

As an HIV and AIDS advocate, what do you do to educate others?
When I told my friends, I wanted to clear the wrong ideas that people have about HIV/AIDS. I said that me touching them, hugging them, or eating off of their plate won't give it to them. I also explained how it is transmitted, and if they were still curious, I would send them things they could read about HIV/AIDS to learn more.

I do the same thing when I advocate. I just talk to people. I’m not a doctor or a special person. I’m just a kid. But I do have HIV, so I know some things that doctors don’t know. Meaning, for a doctor it’s their job to know about HIV, but for me, it’s my life and I have firsthand experience.

I like to educate others by writing. I don’t like public speaking because I have really bad social anxiety. I blog about HIV for different organizations that focus on HIV and women. I have helped host webinars from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and I’ve been part of a few online chats about HIV. I also sign up for HIV research studies and write letters to senators when there is a bill about HIV, and you can, too. I also helped start an online campaign against HIV stigma a few years ago, and I help promote my city’s AIDS Walk.

What do you think girls need to know about HIV and AIDS?
First, I want to talk to girls who have HIV. If you have HIV, no matter how you got it, it's not your fault. It’s not a fault, it’s a virus. Also if you hate taking your meds, just remember every time you take them, it means you are going to live another day.

To girls who don’t have HIV, please don’t be scared of people with HIV. We are just like you. But it’s good to know how to be safe so you don’t get HIV, too. Learn all you can so you can be in charge of your health.

What can other girls do to help end the stigma around HIV and AIDS?
Help others learn the facts. Even if you don’t know anybody with HIV, educate your friends and other girls so that they know how you get it and how you don’t so they know how to protect themselves.

You can talk to people in your school and government. Ask them to teach kids about HIV/AIDS so they understand it but aren’t scared of it. Another thing you can do is ask people to talk about HIV in a different way. We don’t like the phrase “infected with HIV.” There are other ways to say that. It makes me feel like I am just some deadly, nasty infection.

What's your advice for others living with HIV?
HIV will not make you into a whole different person. HIV is not a personality, and it doesn’t take away your personality. Also, please always take your meds even if you hate taking them. Those meds are your savior. They keep you and me alive!

HIV/AIDS is not the boss. YOU are the boss. It revolves around you. You don’t revolve around it. It is not always easy, but you have to fight. Show HIV you can beat it. In this war you’re having, you can live a long life and a good life with HIV.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I want people who have HIV like me to know we are all important and we can all do something to help. I used to say I would never be an advocate because the advocates I saw were extroverts. They were in magazines and on TV shows with their full names, and they were very open. I could never do that. I am loud and giggly, but I’m very introverted and private. I am not ashamed of having HIV, but I will never be like the people who are so public. I am a girl who likes to work behind the scenes, not be the star on the stage. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that we all have a place. If you are OK telling everyone you know you have HIV or if you only tell one person and educate just that one person, you still did something good! You don’t have to try to be like anyone else. Just being yourself is good enough.

Find out what every girl needs to know about HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. You can also learn more about National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and healthy relationships.