"I met my first real friend through the Foundation — her name was Tanya and she had HIV too. When I found Tanya, I finally felt understood and I finally had someone I could hold onto."
My name is Julie Jones. Like most “20-somethings,” I attended college and enjoy shopping, spending time with friends and family, and listening to music. The only thing different about me is that I am HIV-positive.
I was infected with HIV at birth. My mother was infected through a blood transfusion when she was 19 years old, and didn't know she had the virus until after she became pregnant with me. The virus was passed down from my mother to me when I was born. Then she became sick with cancer and died four years later. She was 29 years old.
The early years of my life were filled with many questions and self-doubt. I was known in school as “HIV Girl.” I used to eat my lunch alone in the bathroom. I continued to feel alone until I met the great people involved with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
The Foundation funds incredible research, advocacy, and on-the-ground programs, working to help children and families with HIV and ensure that no more babies are born with the virus. But the Foundation’s work has affected me beyond those programs.
When I connected with the Foundation, I discovered that for the first time in my life, I was not alone. For the first time, I realized that there was someone who cared. I met my first real friend through the Foundation — her name was Tanya and she had HIV too. When I found Tanya, I finally felt understood and I finally had someone I could hold onto. Elizabeth Glaser paved the way for me — thanks to everything she did for children with HIV, I have a normal life today.
The Foundation taught me that it’s okay to be me, and that no matter what, I don’t have to go through things alone anymore. I know now that there is so much worth believing in. I can walk through life knowing that what I have DOES NOT define WHO I AM. Today I choose to live. Today I choose to fight. Today I choose to be happy. And I choose to walk in gratitude. I owe it not only to myself, but to people like Elizabeth Glaser who died helping me and others like me.