Denise was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the late 1980s and told she might only have one year to live. Here she shares what has given her strength in the decades since.

A Bleak Prognosis

[In the 1980s], my friends were dying when [doctors] came up with the deadly disease called AIDS. It was suggested that I go and take a test for the virus because of a relationship I was involved in.

On April 3, 1987. I was discharged from the hospital after a deadly bout with pneumonia. I went to my doctor and was given my results: HIV-positive.

I asked my doctor, “So what is going to happen to me?”

[The answer:] “I can’t say that you’ll be living next year.”

Denise started taking the HIV antiviral medication AZT in 1987. She persevered.

Decades of Strength & Gratitude

I am still alive. Not with one diagnosis, but I have several diagnoses that are deadly. I thank God every day for waking me up in the morning.

I get my strength from my three children and my eight grandbabies. I never thought that I would see grandbabies in 1987. I never thought that I would see my children grown and married and with houses.

I have a host of friends that are my greatest support [and] never fail to tell me how strong I am. And I can’t leave out my case manager, who is wonderful.

My doctors always tell me, also my friends, “Denise, you should write a book.” Believe it or not, I started the book and I am [working with] a mentor to help me get this book up off the ground. They said [it] would help a lot of females out there and some men, also.

I [also] work every day, two jobs. I had a hard job [as] a case manager for 32 years, 25 of those years [while living] with HIV and AIDS.

Reflections & Advice

Well, I believe in prayer. Some people don’t. I know when you’re newly diagnosed, you don’t want to hear about God.

Go to your doctor. Be treated, but not just be treated. Take your medicine. It’s very important.

Remember, [a diagnosis is] not a death sentence. You take control of it, don’t let it take control of you. You may have to do some adjusting to help you live longer. I always hear people say how they admire me for my strength and my courage and my drive.

Don’t give up the fight. Stay strong. Life goes on.

I am surviving and living every day with the multiple illnesses that I carry.

Denise M.
Mount Vernon, NY
Diagnosed with HIV in 1987, later with hepatitis C

If you’ve “taken control” of a difficult condition or find truth in Denise’s story, consider sharing your experience today.