This article touches on what it’s like to be a woman living with HIV and having two children suffering from the pediatric AIDS. Reading the article alone was inspiring. She’s written a novel based on the life of a child living with it. Sometimes when I sit down to write a story, I find an idea that I know something about or have lived through, often I know very little about what I’m writing about. When I started writing Lena’s story in 1997, a woman living with HIV was not terribly discussed or newsworthy.
The author of the blog post has lived through the guilt of passing it on to her children, she’s probably suffered all sorts of stigma about how she got HIV. There are idiots whole left comments that continue the stereotype that it was somehow her fault she got it, or perhaps her ex-fiance’ was a gay man living in the closet. It seems like people want to speculate how someone got HIV and if it’s a woman it’s because of x, y and z. The stigma hasn’t changed.
I took a lot of that into consideration when I started my story. It was still seen as a gay man’s disease and that’s how I approached the story. Sometimes I feel like a fraud for writing the story because I’m HIV negative, but I’m a writer who can imagine time and place and put myself in the shoes of my characters. Isn’t that the job of writers. When I started that story I did so much research about woman with HIV, pregnant women with HIV, which was the case of my character. I read about all the protocols, treatments and breakthroughs. I had always planned to find a medical expert to help walk me through more of the technical aspects of treating the disease, but life happened and I’ve never quite finished the story. Now, when I go back to work on at story set in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, I have to remember to put aside all the future advancements and try to write in that time period. Now, it’s manageable and fewer people are dying from complications of AIDS, but it hasn’t gone away and if I was looking at my character now, in 2012, she’d be alive and well and have given birth to her second child four years previous, who would have been HIV +. But I think the stigma of having the disease and the questions of how she got it would always come.
I still feel very attached to my character and story and would like to go back and finish the novel. I think I have some good bones, but it needs a good editing, a good clean up and finally a trip to find a health expert who can help me with some of the details.