Shana then asked me the million-dollar question, “Venita, are you willing to go public about your HIV?” Again without hesitation, I said yes. A little over 3 years prior to this phone call, I had become one of Shana's clients when I sought help with some health issues I was having. At the time, I was also trying to come to terms with finding out that I was HIV positive. For some reason, I intuitively knew it was time.
On April 2, 2003, my life changed when I was diagnosed with HIV. I was a 44 year old African American woman. I had been a teenage mother and a recovering alcoholic and addict for 18 years. I survived growing up in the turmoil of an alcoholic home, poor and on welfare and eventually becoming a high school dropout. I went back to school at night while I worked full time raising my daughter as a single parent and went on to complete law school at the age of 37.
I thought I had experienced and overcome every obstacle imagined. But HIV changed my life. The day I was diagnosed, it was like someone turned off the lights and my world went black. I went into a severe depression that I still deal with today. I was consumed with shame, guilt, remorse and self-pity. Everyone said fight Venita, you have always been a fighter. But I was tired of fighting. HIV had been the final blow.