Today, many still have a prehistoric misconception about what people living with HIV look like, as well as many inaccurate assumptions about people with HIV.
Lisa has lived with HIV practically her entire life, being first diagnosed at the age of one. She has been a patient at Oak Tree Clinic for the last 22 years, since the clinic opened its doors in 1994. Lisa fondly remembers visiting Oak Tree as a little girl; how welcoming, warm and friendly the staff were and still are to this day.
There are many faces of HIV, and Lisa’s story is one that stands out. Even though she has been diagnosed since one year old, Lisa didn’t discover her condition until she was a teenager. Her parents kept this information as a way to protect her, leaving Lisa feeling scared and confused.
Lisa was adopted from a Romanian orphanage as a baby. She was an ill child who required a blood transfusion, infected blood from the transfusion transmitted HIV. The nurses warned Lisa’s parents not to adopt this “sick” child, but they were happy to be parents and didn’t allow that to get in their way from bringing Lisa home. Her parents did their research and found Oak Tree, where Lisa has been treated ever since.
Acceptance is something we all long for, and for people diagnosed with HIV, it may be a little harder to come by. Lisa was fortunate to have supportive friends and family around her who have helped her through living life with HIV, which is no different than any other person other than the fact that she has to take medication every day. HIV treatment has come a long way, and is a treatable condition that allows people to live normal healthy lives.
Oak Tree has played a significant role in Lisa’s life and has been there for some of Lisa’s life milestones like family planning. Something that many people may not be aware of is that people who are HIV-positive can have healthy relationships without passing HIV to their partners; in addition HIV-positive women can give birth to HIV-negative babies.
When Lisa and her husband decided they wanted to expand their family, Oak Tree guided them through the process. They are now the proud parents of a vibrant four-year-old girl. Oak Tree has a successful track record of delivering zero HIV-infected babies from HIV-positive moms.
“Oak Tree showed me everything I know about HIV, and I am still learning,” says Lisa.
She looks to the clinic to help guide her and her husband to explain to their daughter about HIV when she is old enough to understand. They want their daughter to grow up with acceptance of people with varied backgrounds and conditions, and to have an open mind willing to learn and understand others.