I became infected with HIV ten years ago, when I was thirty, from sexual intercourse with my boyfriend. At first, my reaction was just as you would expect. I was shocked. And also, I was worried that people would judge me. But then I met a group of new friends living with HIV. I realized that people with HIV can live for so many years. And I thought to myself, “Why can’t I stay alive too?”

I take my medicine and care for myself, both body and soul. That’s why I’m still here now. I have to be very careful about the timing of my medication. I wish there were a cure, so that I didn’t have to take it anymore. Each medicine has a different side effect. As a result, my body has changed. I do exercises every morning to help get a better shape, to help reduce my lipodystrophy—body bulge is a common side effect from taking HIV medications. It’s not like I’m fat, but it’s not natural. When I look at myself naked in the mirror I feel that I look like a monster. Before, I had the normal curves. Now, I have a hump on the back, and I have a distended tummy. My right fingertipsfeel numb. I can’t even make a fist. Nobody knows the pain that I get from my HIV medication. Nobody else feels it. But I know it, and I feel it.

If we don’t want people to stamp HIV on our foreheads, then we have to take better care of our appearance. Even though I’m HIV-positive, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about my personal beauty. I can make myself look good. I don’t want society to see HIV as something pathetic. I don’t want them to feel sorry for me.

My personal space is my home. Home is the happiest place on earth for me. I feel relaxed and refreshed when I enter my door after a long day at work. I enjoy my time watching TV, relaxing, listening to the music, cleaning the house, and doing my hobbies. I am a neat person. Every morning, even if I’m running late, even if I’m in a rush, I sweep and clean my room. If my room isn’t clean when I come back from work and I’m tired, I can get very annoyed—so annoyed it can cause me a migraine.