A patient reflects on Baylor’s role in shaping the young woman she is today I lost my mother at a very young age. I was 5 years old when she passed away. She had AIDS and was unable to get medication soon enough due to the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Once she passed away my family decided to get me tested for HIV, and unfortunately I was positive. I started going to Princess Marina Hospital and switched over to Baylor when the centre was built in 2003.
There are some traumatising things that have happened to me: People tried to take advantage of me from a young age, and I began having suicidal thoughts. Living in a home without my parents was hard because I don’t think people understood me. I would sometimes get exhausted because of the side effects of my medication, but they wouldn’t understand because they are not living with HIV. It was hard to see my cousins just enjoying life; they had their mother and father.
Looking back, I can now say that everything that happened to me when I was a child built me and gave me a stepping stone to my future. I got to learn a lot of things that most people my age haven’t experienced. Over time I have taken it upon myself to take my medication the way it was prescribed and always come for my monthly check-ups. I just decided to make it a part of my life. People don’t tell you to go and bathe; it is just a part of you. So I made meds a part of me. It was hard at first, but once I started to understand HIV/AIDS I began realizing that I’m not that different from other children. Yes, I have HIV/AIDS, but it doesn’t describe who I am. Baylor has played a big role in that realization. It is a place of opportunities, and because of it I have achieved so many things. I have been particularly close with one doctor here, and I remember one time he was asking me about furthering my education. These are the types of questions that he would ask about my future. It is really nice to know that there is someone that I can trust and tell them my deepest concerns. A person you don’t even know — we are not family, weren’t friends before, but he actually cared about my life, my future, and where I want to be. That is a good example of the people at Baylor. They really do care about our life, future, and health. Just a few days ago a staff member asked me about the courses I want to take in university. All these people actually care about and want the best for me!
“Yes, I have HIV/AIDS, but it doesn’t describe who I am”.
Teen Club has also been amazing for me. It opened a lot of doors. I can’t even stop smiling when I talk about it. I started coming to Teen Club when I was 13 and ran for Teen Leader the following year. I wanted to be someone that kids could look up to. Once I was elected I started mentoring other kids. It was really wonderful because I got to acquaint myself with a lot of people. Everyone was able to see my transformation from a little girl starting junior high to the woman I am today.
At Teen Club we have sessions on a lot of topics. One topic we cover is sexuality. This is important because at that point hormones are raging, and it is just confusing. They make time for us to discuss these issues. I could not go to my aunt and say, “I have started having these kinds of feelings, and I am not sure what they are.” So it is nice to have someone you could run to and say, “This is what has been happening to me. I have feelings for this person. How do I go about it?” I know now that if I was to get into a sexual relationship I would need to protect myself and the other person. I need to tell my partner that I am HIV positive so that we can build a relationship.
Going forward, I think Baylor is still going to be a huge part of my life. I know whenever I’m in need, or in trouble, I can come here and seek help. It is not like other settings where you meet people you don’t know each time. When I come to Baylor I know I will get to see the same faces. Baylor is my pride and joy, and when I am here I am always happy. Even when I have a bad day I know somebody is going to make me laugh.