Photographer 3 describes herself as “highly intelligent, well-spoken, and positive.”
Everything changes but that sign… I took that picture because I have a lot of stigma ever since I got this demon in my body. And I just thought about how many times I see that sign. I come here so often for whatever the case may be, and things are always changing except that sign. Just having to come here I have to think about the stigma regarding my illnesses.
I got pills on top of pills… Having HIV when you are getting older, things don’t work the same way as they did before. And I ask, “Can’t you give me all this stuff all in one pill?” That’s how I experience stigma because I have to think about it when I take medicines every day, “Did I take the pill? Did I not take the pill? I should take the pill. I’m not going to take the pill.” So that’s a stigma for me right there – potassium, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, stomach’s all messed up. When I eat, my stomach hurt. When I don’t eat, my stomach hurts… It seems like there’s just always a never-ending story with my health.
I got those pills in a bubble bag up under my bed. And when I take them, I take them in the morning when I know there’s nobody there. I even hide them from myself because I don’t even want to remind myself that I have HIV. And that’s another thing because not everybody in my family knows that I have it. Just a close few like my older brother. But – none of my neighbors – see, I live in a senior citizen building. And, boy, look, it’s like putting it on the news, “Well, so and so got it. You better not sit by so and so.” That’s what those people are like because they’re much older than I am. And they don’t understand HIV, they only know that it’s not a good thing. I would not say I’m hiding. I don’t hide, but I don’t tell everyone my business.
Once you get turned down once … I met some guy who was interested and we had a good time together. But when it came down to HIV, I wasn’t hesitant in letting him know. He said, “I’ll be right back.” And he never came back. Even if you explain the ins and outs and the best way to [have safe sex], and that the chances are minimal that I could transfer HIV via safe sex… So I have to keep myself distant from all of that. And once you get turned down once or twice based on a condition that you have no control over, then you just don’t – I just don’t want to face it.
And when I got on the bus, I overheard people talking about, “And she got so-and-so…” And it made me feel so depressed. I didn’t have my hood on when I left from here, but I put my hood on, and I just held my head down like this here and was thinking, “Some people think that you just got to be the biggest whatever to catch this disease. But that don’t happen to always be the case.” And so I just put my hood on and held my head down. And that’s the stigma, when you hear something you didn’t expect to hear. And people don’t know what they’re talking about sometimes. They figure you can only get it one way, whatever. That means they’re just ignorant of what’s going on really. It could be a blood transfusion. It could be anything. But it’s all got to be something that’s lowdown, dirty, and nasty. And that’s a stigma for me.
Easing my mind…When I get depressed a lot, I can catch a bus from my house, and it’ll bring me right down here to this water fountain. And I can sit down there, and I can just watch that water, and sometimes watching the water flows helps me to get unstressed, and it helps me get rid of all the demons that’s going around in my head about my situation and things like that. I can go there and listen. This is just like heaven because it’s beautiful down there. The trees are down there. You got the water that’s flowing so freely, and it frees your mind and stuff and relaxes you. So by the time I leave from there, I’m good.