"I hope my contributions help people understand AIDS, motivate them to ask questions, and inspire them to take action against discrimination towards those affected."
HIV-positive since birth, Hydeia bravely began to share her story at age six. Today, she is a passionate advocate, fighting for others affected by HIV/AIDS.
April 26, 2012
My name is Hydeia, and I was born in southern Nevada. Soon after my birth, I was abandoned at a hospital and later adopted. Little did anyone know, I was living with HIV. It wasn’t until I was three years old that we learned the truth: I was HIV-positive. The prognosis my parents were given wasn’t good. Doctors told them I had two years to live, if that. My parents were shocked and began the hunt to find information on children living with HIV.
On a quest for answers, and for hope, my mom started attending events and conferences. It was at one of these events that she and I had our first run-in with Elizabeth Glaser. She amazed me. Elizabeth was experiencing a similar, devastating reality – she, along with her two young children, Ariel and Jake, were HIV-positive. Refusing to accept their diagnosis as a death sentence, Elizabeth decided to stand up and share her story.
In doing that, she not only fought for the lives of her children, but she gave all children infected with HIV hope. Elizabeth demanded increased pediatric AIDS research, and pushed scientists and doctors to collaborate on the development of medicines safe for children living with the virus. She took her campaign to Capitol Hill, convincing policymakers to give pediatric AIDS the attention it deserved. Because of Elizabeth and other advocates, there was new hope. Pediatric AIDS research was now available and I was able to begin treatment at a national research hospital at the age of four.
My parents, like so many others looking for answers, signed me up for HIV treatment trials. The medicines I was exposed to brought me back to life, and because of my participation, and the participation of other children, these treatments soon became available to other children suffering from AIDS. While part of the treatment trials, I joined support groups and made friends with other kids living with the virus.
Many of these children who attended my hospital kept their status a secret; some were not even allowed to tell their grandparents. This didn't sit right with me. I thought of Elizabeth, and Magic Johnson, and other amazing AIDS advocates, and at six years old, I began to share my story. I wanted my friends to know that we shouldn’t be ashamed of our status. I wanted the world to know that our HIV-positive status didn’t make us any less deserving of healthy lives.
My advocacy efforts gave me the opportunity to work with Elizabeth. I grew a strong appreciation for her; her warm spirit and welcoming demeanor made it hard for anyone not to like her. Elizabeth, and other advocates that followed, helped me to discover my passion for AIDS advocacy and gave me motivation to fight for others affected by HIV/AIDS. Elizabeth not only helped guide me in to the work I do today but also gave me an example of the type of woman and mother I hope to be in the future.
Today, I use my status to educate and advocate. I am passionate about sharing my story because while we’ve come a long way in the fight against AIDS, we still have so much to do before we can safely say we’ve won. I hope my contributions help people understand AIDS, motivate them to ask questions, and inspire them to take action against discrimination towards those affected.