Editor Picks / all

Portraits of HIV: D’Jona, 19, Youth HIV Policy Advisor

by share


“I was born with HIV, but I didn’t know until I was 15. In 10th grade I caught pneumonia and got really sick. My legs swelled up and I couldn’t breathe, eat or sleep. We went to the doctor and they rushed me to the hospital. I passed out in the ambulance and woke up a couple days later … with tubes in my chest and mouth. If I had waited to go to the hospital for a few more days, I would have died.

“My mom told me I had something I would have to live with for the rest of my life and take medicine for, but I could still live a happy, normal life. I thought I had a heart disease.

At a follow-up appointment there were four doctors sitting around a big, round table. They asked if I was aware of my status and I said yes, still thinking I had a heart disease. And then they asked if I was aware that I was HIV-positive and I lied and said yes, but in my head I wanted to breakdown and cry.

“I tried to take the pills for a week, but I got nauseous and dizzy so I stopped taking them. I was in and out of school, and then my house got robbed. My dad thought I set it up so he kicked me out. For a week, my friend and I stayed in abandoned apartments.

“My friend had me stay with someone she knew, but after a week my friend called the girl I was staying with and told her I had AIDS. Her family started being really mean to me: Everything I touched was either thrown away or bleached. I had my own plastic silverware. I had to sleep on the floor, and if they washed my clothes they had to bleach them.

“Finally, I couldn’t take it. I called a good friend and stayed with her for a good two months.  During that time, my friend [the girl who had me stay with someone she knew] got angry at me and posted on Facebook that I had AIDS and was passing it around to other people. A hundred people saw her post, but I didn’t know about it. A couple days later, I went to school and had random people coming up to me asking if I had AIDS and telling me they heard I was sleeping with people and infecting them.

“High school was horrible. I was bullied at school, at home and online. No matter where I went, people were telling me I should die and that people like me shouldn’t be alive. 

“I tried to kill myself a few times. My dad put me in a mental asylum for a week and half. I was 18, and the youngest person there, besides me, was 30.

“It was at the asylum that I realized I wanted to do right and go back to school. There was this prayer on the wall in the asylum called the serenity prayer. I still remember to this day the moment that I saw it and how it made me feel.

“I knew there was God somewhere, and I wanted to find Him and figure things out. I got in touch with my faith and started to feel a little better about myself. I went back to school. At first, it was difficult because I felt like all eyes were on me, but after a while it didn’t matter. I wanted to get my education so I could continue to be a better person.

“I ended up graduating high school in 2014. Now, I am in school for communications at Liberty University. This is just the beginning: I plan to continue in school until I get my Ph.D. or possibly my doctorate. Most of all, I aim to be a motivational speaker and role model for the disabled, LGBTQ, and those living with HIV/AIDS.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *