Lolisa’s childhood was full of fun and adventure. Though she was the second oldest of four children living in the house, Lolisa often took the role of the oldest. Lolisa and her family attended church on a regular basis; though on her own — Lolisa often went to church five days out of the week.
Lolisa and her friends often talked about and had crushes on boys, but they were all too shy to actually talk to them. She and her two closest friends made a pact that they would not have sex with a boy until the night of their high school prom. By the age of fifteen, Lolisa’s friend had broken the pact and she soon followed. Together they went to get birth control to prevent a pregnancy — however, they weren’t concerned about HIV.
Lolisa continued to dedicate her time to school, writing poetry, and attending church — all of which were things that gave her joy and happiness. In the fall of 2003, at the age of sixteen, Lolisa started to feel ill. The discomfort turned into uncontrollable pain and when it had reached a breaking point, her mother carried her into the hospital, demanding answers. After a week of seeing countless doctors and having multiple tests, the doctors learned the cause of Lolisa’s pain — esophagitis. Lolisa was released from the hospital at ninety-five pounds and was able to continue life as she knew it before she got sick.
Unfortunately, the freedom was short lived and she found herself back in the hospital. Lolisa’s doctor suggested that she have an HIV test. She knew nothing about the virus except that her aunt had died from complications from AIDS a year earlier and that Lolisa was not living with HIV. Her mother refused to give consent for her daughter to have the test. Lolisa, not concerned about the result, signed the forms after learning she was old enough to do so.
Lolisa started to feel better and went back to living her life. On January 20, 2004, the phone rang and she learned news that would change her life forever. Lolisa, with her mother on the other phone, learned she was HIV positive. The next day, together, they visited a clinic to learn more about the disease she was living with. Lolisa learned that the high level of virus in her blood indicated that the virus had been with Lolisa for at least ten years and that her mother should be tested also. It was at that point that Lolisa learned her mother had been living with HIV, and the conclusion was made that Lolisa was most likely born with the virus.
Lolisa immediately took an active approach in her own life by educating herself on what it means to be HIV positive. After coming to a place of peace with her diagnosis, she aimed to educate others and started at home by speaking with friends and family. Lolisa knew the power of her voice, and today speaks with everyone and anyone she can, even with the fear of stigma and discrimination.
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