Jamie Gentille: Life is a Gift
When I was 10 years old, my Mom told me that I was HIV-positive. I had contracted it through a blood transfusion during open-heart surgery when I was 3 years old. The days that followed were filled with conversations like this:
“What kind of medicine am I going to have to take?” I asked.
“It’s called DDI,” my mom said.
“Do I have to get shots?”
“The medicine is in liquid form, so you just have to drink it. There will be times, though, that they will need to take your blood when we visit the hospital.”
“This is how they are going to see how well the medicine is working.”
“Am I going to die?”
She looked at me and said, “I don’t know, honey.”
She didn’t say, ‘No, honey, that’s not going to happen,’ or ‘No, you’re going to be just fine.’ She was honest with me. At that moment, it became very real to me that we didn’t know what my future held, but that we would get through it together. I wasn’t devastated. I wasn’t hysterical. I was at peace with it.
“If I die, I want Heather to have the CD player in my room.”
She hugged me close. “Sweetie, hopefully these medicines will work. We’re going to be optimistic, okay?”
My greatest gift of all was that those medicines have worked wonders for me.
I have the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) to thank for that. At the most critical time in my life, and the lives of so many other children diagnosed with HIV, EGPAF has fought to get pediatric HIV drugs developed. Now, I am 34 years old, thriving, enjoying a wonderful marriage and a successful career.
I am thrilled to have published my memoir this year, from which the above story is taken. This is a sneak peek into my life story, which I consider to be a gift every day. The memoir is called Surviving HIV: Growing Up a Secret and Being Positive. It is available on Kindle and in print at Amazon.com. I am proud to share my life story with the world, to highlight just how far we have come. Please consider giving my memoir as a gift to your friends and loved ones this year for the holidays. What better gift than a story of hope?
I cherish my gift of life every day and wish the same joy for all of you. Happy Holidays!