HIV

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Barbara, 1948-

“You could feel the distance, and back then, in ’99, it was still a death sentence.”

She went and bought disinfectants that she ain’t bought in her life. That was my mom’s reaction when I reached out for a helping hand, ‘Mom, I got HIV.’ I was heartbroken, of course. She is my mother! Who do I have? Nobody. I tried to buy my love. Be the girl that she wanted me to be, but I was miserable as hell. You could feel the distance, and back then, in ’99, it was still a death sentence.

I wound up near the Amtrak and was homeless, she points at the direction of the train tracks. Spent there many cold nights, and there I met a homeless guy, Charlie. We call him ‘Oh Man Charlie’. He taught me how to survive. How to sleep in a cardboard box, tight around my body like a coffin. He told me, ‘If you’re going to be homeless, you need to do it right.’ He is the one who introduced me to all the merchants out here. He taught me how to survive.

If I had family support, maybe it would have ended differently. You gotta have that support. Parents are key, and unconditional love. Now I am trying to help others, she points at her stand with free condoms and an HIV educational page. Have a choice, not like me.

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