But medication alone isn't enough to keep anyone alive. You need emotional support, comfort, and love. I realized that I wanted to give that to other people living with HIV. This is why I enrolled in HIV advocacy training to become a mentor and community educator. Later I became an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
I was working to improve the public's understanding of pediatric HIV/AIDS, but at the same time, I was facing difficulties at home. Eventually, my husband left me because he wanted to have more children. Despite the fact that Florida was HIV-negative, he didn't believe he could have a future with us. As a young woman, that possibility tortured me. I, too, thought my chances of having another baby were over.
I received great fulfillment parenting Florida and from my role as an advocate and counselor, but I couldn't let go of my dream to have another child — a sibling for my daughter and another baby for me to love. Today, after almost ten years of self-reflection and searching, I have the right partner to take that journey with me.
I am expecting my daughter in July. Like any proud mother-to-be, I've been chronicling my pregnancy on Facebook and I have gotten so many messages of support, and excitement. In 1997 I would have been ashamed to share my story, but today I am proud to speak out, proud to be the new face of HIV.
I also continue to face questions, confused looks, and genuine concern from many people who don't know the facts. I'm a strong believer that we must change this. We have learned so much about this epidemic since my first pregnancy in 1997. People living with HIV now have many options when it comes to deciding to have a family. HIV-positive and HIV-discordant couples--relationships that include one HIV-positive and one HIV-negative partner--can adopt, make use of sperm or egg donations or other assisted reproductive technologies, and even have a baby the "old-fashioned way." Whatever they choose, the important thing is that now they have a choice.
The biggest difference between my first pregnancy and my second is that today, I am not scared. This time, I know my baby will be healthy because I am committed to it and have access to the right medical care. Pediatric HIV is preventable and I am here today as proof that anyone living with HIV can have a family.
Perhaps more importantly, pediatric HIV has been virtually eliminated in the Europe and North America. Fewer than 200 children living in the United States were infected with HIV in 2012, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. However, globally, 700 babies are infected with HIV every single day because their moms lack access to lifesaving PMTCT services. Almost all of the children who are newly infected with HIV contract the virus from their moms during pregnancy, childbirth, or through breastfeeding. That is why I am working with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I want to see the number of children infected with HIV worldwide decline to zero.