I’ve slowly opened up about being HIV-positive and disclosed my status to my friends."
"I also became a lot more involved in the HIV community, which I absolutely love. The energy from my friends and the incredible people I meet at HIV/AIDS events and conferences is amazing."
My name is Janice McCall and I am 19 years old. When I was four, my father became very ill and we later learned that he was diagnosed with AIDS. My mother and I were also diagnosed, but thankfully we were given medication to suppress the virus and keep us healthy. At the time, I didn’t know that we were infected with HIV. After my father died, my mother and I moved to Florida to be closer to family.
I grew up a “normal kid” and participated in “normal kid activities” -- but I always wondered why I had to take so many pills for “allergies” when my friends didn’t. During my sixth grade year, my life changed forever. My friend and I were out having fun and we shared a drink. Her father, a good friend of my mother’s who knew our HIV status, grew upset, and instructed us to throw the drink away.
The next day my friend came up to me crying and just gave me a hug, but I didn’t know why. I was confused and frustrated until that night, when my mother told me that I was HIV-positive. I finally understood why I had to take so much medication, and why my friend’s dad had acted the way he did. At first, after learning my status I had little incentive to educate myself about HIV/AIDS, but when I entered high school my attitude changed.
I’ve slowly opened up about being HIV-positive and disclosed my status to about five of my friends, including my boyfriend. I also became a lot more involved in the HIV community, which I absolutely love. The energy from my friends and the incredible people I meet at HIV/AIDS events and conferences is amazing. Disclosing is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I’ve learned that you have to go with your intuition and be selective. I also make sure I can fully trust my friends before letting them know my HIV status.
It has been through disclosure that I’ve realized how very lucky I am to have such wonderful, intelligent friends who care about me. The more I grow, the more I am beginning to realize that I am still that “normal kid” (now young adult) doing “normal kid” things, regardless of my HIV status.
And while living with HIV is a challenge, I am happy. I am a stronger person today because of everything I’ve been through in my life, and I have learned the importance of making the best of things. Life can be hard sometimes, but I know it will get better down the road, and that is something to look forward to.
Janice McCall is a Foundation Ambassador from St. Petersburg, Florida. As an Ambassador, Janice advocates on behalf of the Foundation, and shares her personal story of living with HIV to individuals all over the country.