In September 2011 I got a call that would shake up my entire world; a call that I thought at the time was the second worst thing that could happen to my family...my sister had contracted HIV while in Africa with the Peace Corps. You can read about how I handled this shocking news here.
My sister Jessica was very sick and it took the doctors a couple of weeks to figure out what was wrong with her. She was then flown back to the States and cared for in Washington D.C. Once released she moved to New York to rest and recover. I'm happy to report that she is doing very well and is extremely strong!
It has been a wild ride already with my family, especially since Christmas Eve. That morning my sister decided to share her medical status with the "world" by sharing her blog and detailed story with Facebook. She couldn't have had a better idea! All of us who knew the secret felt such freedom, as did she. We were now able to speak up as advocates and educators to try and spread the word about transmission, protection, basic information and the fight against stigma.
Despite all of the research I did (remember, I carry the dork gene), which brought such relief and comfort that this wasn't an immediate death sentence for Jessica, the whole situation was still just plain ol' scary! A day or two ago though I realized all of a sudden that the idea of my sister having HIV felt completely normal and not scary at all to me. When did that happen?!?!?? I am not really sure but I am glad it did because it has brought even more peace. Of course I still get sad thinking about the rejection she will face from others in certain situations, but I know she is strong and will work though those times.
The truth is that my sister is an amazing woman. The truth is she made some mistakes in her life. The truth is so have I. The truth is that HIV is a disease that has no cure at the moment but with good treatment and taking care of oneself, she can probably outlive me!
I will continue to do my part to educate others about HIV and battle the stigma. Check out her awesome blog here. It has already been read in 79 countries around the world! How amazing is that!?!?!?
Blessed beyond measure,