When I first found out I was HIV-positive, I was nine and at the time, pediatric medication just didn’t exist.
For a long time, my mom chose not to tell me about my HIV status, and I understand her rationale. She wanted me to have a normal childhood. She wanted to protect me from the burden and the anxiety of being sick
I feel like I was launched into two lives.
I was fairly open to one extent. I could get up in a room full of people and tell them, I’m nine years old and HIV-positive. But then at school, I wasn’t open with my friends. And part of that was I didn’t want to be stigmatized. I didn’t want an AIDS stamp on me as a child.
As I became older and more confident, the idea of living a double life has really faded. I’ve chosen to be more open and out about my status.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for 11 years. We’re high school sweethearts. Telling Chris was really important to me because I didn’t want to bear the burden by myself. I wanted him to see who I really was.
When you’re in a relationship with someone who’s not HIV-positive, it can be an interesting balance. Our goal is to keep Chris HIV-free, keep me healthy. I want him to be my partner, my lover, my boyfriend, my best friend. I don’t necessarily want him to feel like he is a parent who has to take care of a sick kid. He’s a sweetheart, and he’s definitely a part of our family. As a kid, the belief was maybe I’ll make it to 10. Maybe I’ll make it to 16. And to see what treatment means now is amazing. I can have children. I can have children who are HIV free. I can keep Chris HIV free.
I wanted to go to high school, I went to high school. I wanted to travel. I’ve been able to travel. I want to pursue journalism; I did that.
Being empowered, to me means living your dreams fearlessly. Going, going after life, the life that you’ve been given.
Born with HIV, Cristina talks about the actions she and her partner – who does not have HIV – take to stay healthy.
Regardless of HIV status, there are more ways than ever to stay healthy. In addition to improving health, the medications used to treat HIV also prevent the spread of the virus to others. For those who do not have HIV, PrEP offers another highly effective means of protection.