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A Girl Like Me comments temporarily disabled

July 9, 2012

Dear friends,

We are doing some maintenance work to the A Girl Like Me blog/site, and need to temporarily disable the ability to post comments to blogs. We will send out a notification when the work is complete and comments are back in place!

Thank you for your patience,

The Well Project team


The International AIDS Conference (IAC) is less than 30 days away

June 26, 2012

The International AIDS Conference (AIC) is less than 30 days away and I just wanted to write a quick update on what is going on. There will be some amazing speakers at the Conference: 42nd President Bill Clinton, South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Bill Gates, Sir Elton John, and Whoopi Goldberg just to name a few. Over 25,000 people are expected to attend IAC.

I am counting the days to when I get to meet my fellow bloggers! There are also many wonderful events happening. Here are a few I will be attending:

  • Friday, July 20, 2012 10:00 – 17:00 Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th St., NW, Washington, DC “Making Sex a Crime . . . ” To register or for more information, contact: Nick Rhoades (, Center for HIV Law and Policy, 319.961.5183.
  • Friday, July 20th is the IAC Mandatory Kick-off Meeting for volunteers.
  • Sat. July, 21st: Raising Our Voices at AIDS 2012: U.S. Positive Women’s Network Pre-Conference 8:30am-17:00pm Willard Hotel-Buchanan Room, Washington, D.C. 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • Sunday, July 22nd Collaborating Across Borders to Advance the Health of Women at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 9 – 11.
  • Sunday, July 22nd March on Washington: AIDS Healthcare Foundations (AHF) and over a thousand organizations from 78 countries are marching to remind governments around the world to keep the promise.
  • Monday, July 23rd – 26th, 7:30 – 13:30 Volunteer at IAC Poster Area (stop by and see me)
  • Thursday, July 26th, 11:45 – 12:45 Women’s Networking Zone in the Global Village. Panel of Bloggers (I hope I will be there!) from A Girl Like Me on “Women Supporting Women: The Power of Blogging“.

I feel very blessed to be able to attend the conference and meet like-minded people. I am hoping that this conference and the media coverage will help to educate millions of people. HIV has been around for 30 years yet many people still lack the knowledge they need to protect themselves and others. The stigma and discrimination that still exist saddens me but also empowers me to keep going. It empowers me to continue speaking, to continue blogging, and to continue my own education in hopes that I can make a difference in my life and in yours.

Drug Adherence

June 25, 2012

Once you’ve made the decision to take medication, it is crucial to adhere to your prescribed regimen.

I’m prescribed Truvada and Isentress. I take one of each in the morning and one more Isentress in the evening. Honestly, it’s not bad to take three pills a day. Although, they are rather large pills! I’m fortunate in that I don’t notice any side effects.

My husband, on the hand, has some side effects from his one pill a day regimen of Atripla. The worst side effect for him is the dreams and they way it affects his sleep. He has VERY vivid dreams and falls into a deep sleep.

With being husband and wife and both positive, we tend to remind each other to take our medications. I have done a fantastic job at adherence with my morning pills, but not as well on my evening pill.

While I thought I had taken the pill each night, I would always end up with a few extra pills in the bottle at the end of the month. I know this must be from forgetting my evening pill. So to stay accountable, I bought a second weekly medication organizer. Now every Sunday, I fill the two organizers with my morning and evening pills. Problem solved!

It’s so important to adhere to your meds. You may need to experiment and find out what works best for you and your schedule! But you must find something that works for you!

Letter to HIV: The other face of living with HIV

June 25, 2012

Here are the links to the vlogs in Spanish and English

English one:

Spanish one:

View Maria’s letter to HIV.

love and light, Maria

It’s my first year anniversary with HIV

June 21, 2012

This month I’m celebrating a rather complex issue…round about this year I was diagnosed with HI Virus and little did I know that my life was about to change. I remember that day like it was yesterday, I remember throwing myself in bed and crying hysterical OH! God I had hoped that that day would be blocked from my memory for life, I remember my little brother asking me that day if I was okay and all I did was break down. I had called my then boyfriend and told him the dreadful news and he was all supportive and I was certain we would be in this together. The next day we went to test the both of us and we were both positive.

We picked ourselves and decided to move forward and move on from that day on…fast forward to 1 year later although life is still hard I have managed to be at peace with it and accept that life’s unpredictable thus you can’t control certain events occurring in life’s journey. God has blessed me with a wonderful man who’s HIV- and loves me as much as I deserve. To sum this up: although life is not easy, it’s definitely worth it. I didn’t think I would have made this far and to God be the glory!

Wake up and smell the coffee…

June 20, 2012

“Am divorcing u, I can’t live with u anymore” said my husband, whom I married in 2004 (when I was negative and got the virus thru medical negligence – Plz refer to my first blog “Living with HIV”) who finally divorced me in 2008, and even took the custody of my only child knowing that I am unable to take care of him.

“U are HIV Poz?????”, exclaimed the HR of the company “But I thought that only prostitues and drug users get it.”

“Jo, your treatments are expensive, how can you support yourself on your meager salary? Since you are my friend, I can do my bit to help but I can’t keep on helping you all the time as I have my needs too”, said a dear friend of mine, who financially helped me with medication for 4 months and then after that, never heard from him again.

“She is poz, don’t even go near her. If you talk to her or even be friends with her, the whole society will outcast you. Even your friends will abandon you…What will people say? We have a reputation to protect”, said a mother of my friend when he spoke of what good work I am doing for the community and disclosed my status to her.

“What did you say? She is HIV Positive? Don’t even bring her inside the house. Get her out from here right now, right this moment”, said a mother of another friend, and she dusted the sofa where I once sat, took the glass of water where I had sipped and threw it in the dustbin.

“My doc tells me that saliva transmit the virus thus no kissing”, said my ex bf “and Jo, he is a well–qualified doctor, who holds several degrees” ..and the lumped formed on my throat knowing that nothing I will do or say will convince him that it is NOT true. But still I educated him that the virus don’t thrive outside the body and die within few seconds after coming in contact with air. At least he listened.

“No, I don’t love you anymore. Because you lied to me. Because you hid it from me”, said my ex bf, not understanding that I had mustered all my courage to tell him coz I HAD to tell him and he should be thankful for it. “I can’t marry you, Jyoti, but I will be with you the rest of your life as a friend”….And whatever dreams I had built came crashing down

While I write this, my heart is full of pains. But then I knew I had to tell my story, that could be read by millions. My painful past, which had been a lot of learning experience, my struggling present, the motivational chapter of my life that made me spring into HIV activism and my yearning for a beautiful future that I still dream, that I wanna make it into a reality…..My reason of blogging, telling my story, showing my face, fighting on to live and inspire the others has only one spark : LOVE. I want that spark to be like a raging fire. People with HIV in India face a lot of hardship, stigma and discrimination. Sometimes we are abandonned by our families/relatives, we are octracized by the society, left to fund on our own, treated like untouchables, looked upon as a person who had multiple affairs……and hence cursed! I have been thru a lot, and am willing to go thru it again. Though it hurts and breaks me down, I can “feel” that very pain in the mind and the heart of the rest of the people sailing in the same boat. I can imagine what they have gone thru and why they live in fear. Suicide rates and depression amongst people having HIV/AIDS is extremely high here and I was also one of them. Two unfailed suicide attempts and a series of depression and anxiety attacks that took me to the lowest bottom, thinking that people don’t understand me, they don’t care, and am victimised against their attitude/behavioural changes. Until one fine day, I finally woke up and smelled the coffee!!!!!!!!

IGNORANCE leads to STIGMA, thereby leading to DISCRIMINATION. One cant expect people to understand you unless you yourself can make them understand. Change begins from YOU, from “within”…and its you only who can implement the change by coming out in the open, by speaking about it, by educating the masses, by generating support. Those who are unable to come out due to the fear of the society can at least learn to accept themselves and move on rather than dwelling in self-pity and hatred. THINK positive. BE positive. TAKE a positive approach to life. Change your mind, weed out all the negative energies and build a garden in it, watering them with all positive blooms that would fragrance your soul. With that done, your everyday living will become stronger. Healthier. Beautiful.

Now when anyone tells me “U are HIV Poz? But I thought that only prostitues and drug users get it” I reply back with a pitiful smile (pitiful yes, coz of their ignorance) “Have you ever tested yourself? U too may never know. I didn’t know I was carrying the virus until my blood got tested when I was undergoing abortion” And I could hear the gasp, I could see their stunned face with wide eyes, open mouth and dropping jaw, and believe me, I ABSOLUTELY love the reactions I get! 🙂 🙂

As for “She is poz, don’t even go near her. If u talk to her or even be friends with her, the whole society will outcast u. Even ur friends will abandon u…What will people say? We have a reputation to protect”, I had replied to that lady straight on her face “ Aunty, there are thousands of people who admire our courage to speak up. And they are those people who back us up. And your son is one of them who had participated in Awareness Programme and who encouraged others to join in.” And she was glaring at her son as if wanting to know what I had just said was right and her son was facing her proudly and boldly saying “She will always be my friend”.

I even answered to my dear friend’s statement “Jo, your treatments are expensive, how can you support yourself on your meagre salary? Since are my friend, I can do my bit to help but I cant keep on helping you all the time as I have my needs too”. I emailed him that I am thankful for him to help me and being with me during the worst of my times. Yes, treatments are expensive and my salary is meagre BUT money is NOT everything. PEOPLE are. The love I give to the people makes me rich with their unlimited blessings that till now I am still on medication, still living to tell my story. You also did your bit to help without my asking. Why? Coz you loved me as a friend and you did try your best till the last. Thus I really appreciate small things in life.” Though I did not meet him but I got his reply and we are still in touch once in blue moon though busy in our own lives.

And oh yes….coming to the point of a hysterical mother of my friend “What did u say? She is HIV Positive? Don’t even bring her inside the house. Get her out from here right now, right this moment,”, said a mother of another friend, and she dusted the sofa where I once sat, took the glass of water where I had sipped and threw it in the dustbin. Before leaving the house I had told her that HIV Virus is not transmissable by air/water/sharing. I reminded her that I had come to this house many times and she had served me many tea/coffee/water in crockeries that has also been used and reused for other guests. She wasn’t aware of my status then and now that she is, just throwing off one glass in the dustbin won’t suffice, she should throw off all the crockeries in the kitchen if and only if she find one of the guest having contracted the same. Having said that, I could almost hear my friend giggle.

My ex bf is still with me as my best friend, he still kisses me though he has fears regarding the same. Whatever I have taught him, he still takes the second opinion from the doctors, even googling the answers from the web that are so outdated that again I have to give him an explanation with a valid meaning/reason. Our friendship has in fact deepened and I respect him as my friend and had stopped expecting a future with him. He has his own life and own space. Though I had moved on, deep in my heart, he still lingers coz he had gone thru 3 months of mental truama and agony before residing to his fate and finally decided to test himself after many months which turned out to be “negative”.

Last but not least, as for the divorce from my husband, I am blessed that it had happened coz now I realised the “purpose” of my life. This is where I belong and this is where my heart is : HIV Activism….To reach out…To give love to many people who need it and to spread the love to those seeking it. My suffering is not mine alone, it is also their suffering as they are also the part of my journey, walking thru the same winding thorny path, having many long way to go, many difficulties and hurdles to cross to finally find the path laden with bed of roses.

Thus by ending, I would say….THINK positive, BE positive, TAKE a postive approach to life. Everything happens for a reason. Don’t take life for granted but be thankful for small things. No one is in charge of your happiness except YOU. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE…..And remember :

New blog post from Sonya in “Voices from our Allies”

June 19, 2012

Sonya posted a new blog “Let’s Applaud Each Other” in Voice from our Allies:

Let’s Applaud Each Other

Let’s Stand up and Applaud each other …for survival, strength, determination, Purpose, and Destiny….Now, take a look around you …look to your neighbors on your left and now look to your neighbors on the right…. Startling stats tell us that 1 out of 5 people don’t know their status…is that you?

I would never have believed or asked to be affected by HIV, but I believe that in all things there is a purpose; and I’m here before you on behalf of the affected people who are unable to speak because of the shock, denial, stigma and humiliation that is associated with this topic HIV/AIDS whose lost their voice….

  • The reality of AIDS is brutally clear. Women of color are especially affected by HIV infection and AIDS. We make up only 12% of the female population in the United States, yet we account for 66% of new HIV infections. In 2009, HIV infection was the leading cause of death for African American women aged 25–34 years and the third leading cause of death for African American women aged 35–44 years.

Worldwide, forty million, sixty million, or a hundred million infections will be counted in the coming few years.

But despite our efforts, and good intentions it is the epidemic, which is winning today!

I ask you to recognize that HIV/AIDS is not someone else’s problem. It doesn’t care whether you are Democrat/Republican; it does not ask whether you are black/white, male/female, gay/straight, young/old or rich/poor.

TODAY, we represent a community whose members have been reluctantly drafted from every apartment and suburb IN OUR COMMUNITIES. Though I am an African American grandmother, I am one voice crying with many throughout the streets of Harlem to Arizona bringing you Real Talk about a Real Issue with a dose of Reality!

Let’s explore some Real Talk!

Let’s get to the nitty gritty and understand a few things about us! We love and we love hard! We must use protection at all times!

We may take refuge in our stereotypes, but we cannot hide there long. Because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks: Are you human? And this is the right question: Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty and they do not deserve meanness. They don’t benefit from being stigmatized, isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made: a human being. Not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity, but family who are ready and worthy for our compassion and love!

But HIV is different and we have helped it along. We have killed each other with our ignorance, prejudice, and our SILENCE. So now you know…the State of AIDS in America is dire and getting worse. So what are you going to do about it?

First and foremost, you’ve got to make sure you’re taking personal responsibility for ending AIDS.

Get Tested. If you’re sexually active, get tested on a regular basis—and take everyone you love with you, especially anyone you’re having sex with;

Challenge Stigma. It’s killing us. Don’t let shame surrounding HIV—or sex, or drugs, or gay and bisexual relationships—cripple you or your community. Challenge it every time you encounter it, because silence still equals death.


Let’s continue to Stand up and applaud each other for getting tested on a regular basis, love, encouragement, and support for our communities.

Read more of Sonya’s blogs on “Voices From our Allies“.