I got married in July of 2001. I married a man with whom I share common goals, respect, and a sense of dignity. I have come a long way from selling myself on the streets of Harlem for cocaine.
I was born in March of 1960 in Brooklyn, NY. I graduated from Fort Hamilton High School and started college the following year. Without finishing college I took a job with an insurance company, which was quickly followed by a job with a real estate firm. After taking and failing the real estate licensing test, I decided to return to school and pursue an education in business. A brokerage firm had employed me for three years when I met and married my first husband. We had twin girls. My husband was both physically and emotionally abusive, he did not work, and he openly cheated on me. He infected me with HIV, although I did not discover this for many years. Soon into our relationship he introduced me to cocaine. Within three years of getting married I had lost my job and become addicted to coke.
Without employment my husband and I could not pay our rent and were evicted from our apartment. I put my girls into the custody of my sister-in-law and left on my own, leaving my husband and my life behind. For close to eleven years I lived without a permanent address and with no means of providing for myself other than prostitution and selling drugs. Arrested and convicted on a felony drug sale charge, I spent the next six months at Rikers Island serving my first and only sentence.
Two weeks before being released from Rikers Island I was informed I was HIV positive. With a T-cell count of 0, I was referred to BRC’s Adult Day Health Care Program. Two days after my release from prison I began the program. I learned about my illness; I learned how to handle my emotions and understand my options, including medication.
The best thing they did was teach me how to live with the disease… that I had options.
I have been drug-free for three years and have completed an HIV training course provided by BRC called ARRIVE. I have a current T-cell count of 700. I became a stipend worker at ADHC and then began working as a stipend receptionist at another BRC location. I also completed BRC’s Horizons computer training program.
After my release from prison I had been living with my parents. Through BRC I learned about The Glass Factory, a BRC SRO residence for people living with HIV and AIDS, where I had a studio apartment. My new groom and I now have our own apartment. I love him very much and we are very happy together.
BRC was the best thing that could have happened to me.