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Living with AIDS: Personal stories

admin | 11/30/2011, 7 a.m.

The disease, Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, commonly known as HIV/AIDS, is a chronic illness that has plagued the world for nearly 30 years. Although education about HIV/AIDS is available, for people living with the disease there is still reluctance to tell others about their health. In the Black community in particular, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is still very real. Isaiah Gaines, 49 of Overtown who was diagnosed with HIV in 1996 and upgraded to AIDS in 2005, does volunteer work as an HIV/AIDS advocate on the streets of his community. I do my own outreach, he said. I pass out condoms and a lot of people dont call me Isaiah, they call me the condom man. If one person will stop and listen to me I feel that I am doing my part. Gaines contracted the disease when his condom broke while unknowingly having sex with an infected woman. He is currently married to Patricia Frey, 22, and the couple have a three-year-old, Richard Henry. Its not easy living with HIV/AIDS, he said. I know some of my family members are still afraid of me. When my mother first found out about my status she was terrified of me, she use to feed me in styrofoam cups. There are stages that you go though when you have this disease. First theres the denial stage, then you go through the depression stage where you just dont care about life, then you eventually accept it. According to the Miami-Dade County Department of Health, one-out-of-45 Blacks in Miami-Dade County (M-DC) is living with HIV or AIDS, in comparison to 1-in-179 for the Hispanic/Latino and 1-in-130 for white. Blacks account for 20 percent of M-DCs population compared to 52 percent of reported AIDS cases and 44.7 percent of HIV-reported cases through December 2008. Hydeia Broadbent, 27, an HIV-AIDS activist from Las Vegas was born with the disease. I feel like when it comes to this generation my generation let the younger generation down, she said. We failed to put the fear in them when it comes to HIV/AIDS. I feel like we have grown so complacent because the medications are better and people are not dying at alarming rates like they used to. I really kind of feel bad for the younger generation because I dont feel that they know the seriousness of this disease. They dont know that people are still dying because they cant get the education. Quintara Lane, 25, was also born HIV-positive and helps educate people in the Miami area. Even though she is positive she still has hopes of being married and having a biological child. I am going to have a child naturally, she said. Right now how the medications are my T-cells are very high, so I have a good chance of having a child that will be negative. By Randy Gricergrice@miamitimesonline.com