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What It's Like to Live With HIV: Four Stories

It's easy to forget amid the overwhelming statistics -- 40 million infected, 25 million dead, 12 million orphans in Africa alone -- that the grassroots battle against HIV/AIDS happens every day in the bodies of infected people worldwide. In their own words, here are the stories of five of them:

maria lucia da silva and laerte vicente

Maria Lúcia da Silva ("Lúcia") and Laerte Vicente

Maria Lúcia da Silva ("Lúcia") and Laerte Vicente, a middle-aged couple in Brazil, did not know each other when they were diagnosed but have since formed a life together. Nothing about living with HIV is easy -- they still fight against stigma every day -- but a particular challenge is negotiating their different feelings about sex after HIV.


William W. Dodge IV ("Dodge")

William W. Dodge IV ("Dodge"), a 40-year-old gay man in the United States, is a pioneer: He volunteered in February 1996 for the study that produced the first successful HIV treatment. AIDS-free for 10 years, here he tells the story of how he became "patient no. 9" in that groundbreaking trial. He's now facing the end of the study -- and life without the doctors who have kept him healthy.

dorothy makasalatiba

Dorothy Maksalatiba

Dorothy Maksalatiba, a middle-aged woman in South Africa, didn't believe HIV existed until shortly before she and her son were diagnosed. Her family's life has been transformed since antiretroviral drugs were made available under President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), but the $15 billion program is funded for only five years.



"Thomas," a young man in China, struggled to find a way to get antiretroviral treatment as he approached death, and eventually his family spent their life savings to keep him alive. Now he works to make sure other HIV-positive Chinese don't have to fight as hard as he did.

  • Related Links
  • Thembi's AIDS Diary
    Thembi Ngubane, a young HIV-positive South African woman, carried a tape recorder with her for a year so an international audience could share moments small (her morning prayers) and large (telling her father her HIV status). The edited story aired on National Public Radio in April 2006 and is available online, along with an AIDS action toolkit. Thembi also appeared on a CNN special presentation, "The End of AIDS: A Global Summit with President Clinton," and video of her story is available on its site.
  • "For 20 Years, HIV Was My Livelihood. Now, it's My Life"
    John-Manuel Andriote has covered HIV/AIDS for 20 years, since almost the very beginning of the epidemic in the United States. As a gay man, he was never an entirely detached observer, but despite all his knowledge, Andriote wasn't prepared to make the leap from observer to subject when he was diagnosed with HIV in 2005. In this personal essay that appeared in The Washington Post, he talks about his shock, his struggle to find a way to pay for treatment, and his decision to hide his diagnosis from his family for many months, despite the fact that he "never believed" that HIV was shameful.
  • POZ's HIV Blogs
    The online version of POZ, a magazine for HIV-positive people, includes blogs where you can track what's happening in the lives of a wide variety of people with HIV. POZ also has an extensive collection of community forums on HIV/AIDS issues, as well as reading recommendations.
  • Avert's Personal Stories
    An especially diverse group of personal stories about living with HIV -- from lesbians, gay men, teens and Africans -- can be found on this site from the British HIV/AIDS advocacy group Avert.

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posted may 30, 2006

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