Love and Happiness on Valentine’s Day

By Tiffany Neal | February 13, 2013

Jamie, a Foundation Ambassador, with her husband Paul.

Jamie Gentille, 2011

Sweet cards and candy: Valentine’s Day is a time to reflect and shower your loved ones with tokens of your appreciation. It’s no different for couples living with HIV. Around the world, people infected with HIV have found true love and romance despite their status. For this special day, we reached out to a few of our ambassadors to get their thoughts on love and happiness.

From Jamie Gentille:

It’s your classic love story.  Boy meets girl.  Boy and girl fall in love.  Girl tells boy that she’s HIV positive.  Boy is shocked.  Girl is terrified.  Boy affirms love for girl.  Boy proposes two months later.  Boy and girl marry seven months later.  The end.

Okay, maybe it’s not so classic, but like all good love stories, it has a happy ending.  I knew that Paul was the One by our third date.  Our initial spark of attraction quickly led to an undeniable bond.  We found ourselves spending all of our free time together and loving every minute of it.  I was terrified that my bombshell of being HIV positive would ruin that, but I had to get it off my chest. 

When I told him, Paul was shocked.  He never expected to have HIV in his life.  After a couple days of processing, and looking up information, Paul came to the conclusion that this was something that he could deal with.  I was intoxicated with relief and excitement.  From that point forward, we didn’t waste any time.  We got engaged and married within nine months of meeting, and will be celebrating our seventh anniversary in April. 

Living with HIV had always put up an invisible wall between myself and the rest of my world.  I kept it pretty quiet, and never was able to really identify with it.  I kept it safely under the rug unless I really needed to deal with it.  When Paul and I fell in love, and he willingly took this on, I was able to open up about it.  I knew he would always be in my corner, so I could be more vulnerable, open up to more people, and even speak openly about it. 

What I found in Paul is what I hope everyone finds in a mate: a best friend, an advocate, and someone to be your safe place, no matter what life brings.  So while our love story has some unique twists and turns, we are like most other couples – we argue over dishes, we comfort each other when we have a bad day at work, we bicker over what movies to watch, we snuggle.  And we look forward to living happily ever after.

The end.

From Ben Banks:

February is the month for the celebration of love; this love should not be reserved for just one month during the year nor bound by age. The teenage years have their own set of obstacles, but growing up with HIV, this reality for finding the person who would share their unconditional love for you was something that might not be possible. 

This fear was erased 14 years ago when Kasiah walked into my life.  As we talked the first night until the sun rose at 7am, I knew something magical happened that evening.  We shared our plans for life and our future.  Our love for each other was not verbally spoken that night, but what I felt in my heart was as warm as the sun that cast its rays on me that morning. 

At the age of 20, I realized how lucky I was.  I had found the person who would love me unconditionally.  I knew Kasiah would recognize that HIV is only one aspect of what makes me.  She would love me for being me with no stigma or discrimination.

Today, we continue to share our plans for life and our future.  We have plans to have children and grow old together.

Tiffany Neal is the Foundation's Social Media Coordinator based in Washington, D.C.