I'm 23 and Living with HIV, young women and HIV, Marvelyn Brown

Editor’s note: It usually takes an event or person that moves you to feel something is actually “real” and can happen to you. For me, that something was HIV/AIDS—that person, Marvelyn Brown. While watching TV one day, I came across Marvelyn telling her story of being a freshman at her local college in Tennessee and just months after her 19th birthday, being diagnosed with HIV. She contracted the virus from her then-boyfriend through just one night of unprotected sex.

How did this 23-year-old make HIV “real” to me? Perhaps, and I hate to say it, because her story was not of a prostitute or drug addict. But while her story can expose the HIV misconceptions you may have, it’s her quest to share her story and spread awareness that makes HIV a reality for all of us.

Savvy Miss: How did you find out you were HIV positive?
Marvelyn Brown: I was sick in the hospital due to pneumonia. The doctor didn’t know what was going on so they suggested an HIV test. [When the results came in] he told me ‘you’re HIV positive’ and I just looked at him. It was a blank reaction. At the time, I didn’t really know what to think.

Women account for over 25% of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the U.S.
-(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

SM: When did it hit you that you were “HIV positive”?
Marvelyn: I began calling people. My sister was like “oh my god, oh my god!” She was freaking out. Another friend was eight months pregnant at the time. She hung up the phone, [then] called back and said, ‘You have HIV; I don’t want you to come around me or my child.’ My first rejection made me step back and think, ‘Marvelyn, the doctor just told you you’re HIV positive.’