When I was 18 I really thought I was going to rule the world, and I really felt invincible. One night I was drinking with friends, and there was a friend from another high school there. I thought the biggest thing I had to worry about was getting pregnant.
Then a year later I got the shock of my life. I found out that I was positive through a routine health exam.
There weren’t many treatments available.
My doctor said that I could expect to possibly have good health until I was 25 years old and just to do what I could with my life.
At about seven years of infection, I was nearly 25 years old, I was having all kinds of things go wrong with my body, and my immune system was just battered.
And at that point the medications we have available today to successfully treat HIV, came just at the right time to save me.
I’m healthy today because I take my medications all the time on time without missing a pill. Because of that, my viral load is undetectable.
I’m almost 40 years old. I’m married. I have a six year old daughter.
My husband Chris is HIV negative and we have never put him at risk. We always use a condom and we’ve succeeded in doing that for 15 years.
Our daughter is healthy thanks to me having treatment during pregnancy.
Mother-to-child transmission does not need to happen.
And all we need to do is make sure there’s access to care and access to treatment.
Being empowered when it comes to HIV for me means living my best life.
There’s no do-overs with HIV. You can’t take this back, you know. You get infected or you don’t. I know that if someone had spoken to me when I was a young woman just starting to be sexually active, I really think I would have made a different choice. I think I would have protected myself.
Jen has been living with HIV since she was a teen and today she is married to a man who is HIV negative. Because of her treatment, they were able to have a healthy daughter who does not have HIV.
A person with HIV who is in ongoing care can live a normal lifespan. In addition to improving health, HIV treatment also prevents the spread of the virus to others.