HIV is Just One Part of Me

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HIV is Just One Part of Me

By Tranisha Arzah
Peer Advocate at BABES Network-YWCA

Tranisha Arzah
Tranisha Arzah

My name is Tranisha Arzah and I was diagnosed with HIV in 1990.

Being born with HIV put a different perspective on everything in my life. When I was younger, the only thing I knew was that I was sick. So were my father, mother, brother and grandparents.

I was about 4-years-old when my mom and brother passed away. I remember going to the hospital and seeing my mother for the last time. I was disconnected from it all, upset and confused. I felt like I was being abandoned.

After that, I was taken to a foster home with my other brother (who was born negative) because my father wasn’t capable of caring for us. I think the doctors assumed I would get sick and eventually die too, because most people did back then. But I didn’t. The medications worked and I started to get healthier.

It wasn’t until I was 7 or 8 that I learned about my diagnosis and what happened to my family. I went to therapy, where they helped me understand what I had using pictures of a body and the different things going on inside it. I was so young; I don’t even remember what my initial reaction was.

I do remember comforting my brother a lot. Though he was just a toddler, he was all I had left. I would say to him, “Everything is going to be okay, Mommy had to go somewhere, but she wishes she were here with us.” As I got older, I became bitter towards my parents, hating what they did to me and my brother, for leaving me alone and scared.

But, gradually, life became better. I moved in Port Townsend, WA, where I grew up with a tight-knit group of friends. My foster mother soon adopted me and, in 2008, I graduated from high school and moved out on my own for the first time.

Living alone as a young adult with HIV was a huge struggle. I made mistakes, but learned from all of them. I wouldn’t have made it this far without the amazing support system of friends and family in my life, then and now.

Though I have encountered challenges, life has treated me well. I am honored to now work in the HIV community and proud of what I’ve accomplished. One of my biggest achievements happened recently, when I was invited to attend the 2013 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) as a Youth Scholar last September in New Orleans.

Last February, Tranisha (Right) and Governor Jay Inslee (Left) were speakers at the AIDS Action and Awareness Day in Olympia.
Last February, Tranisha (right) and Governor Jay Inslee (left) were speakers at the AIDS Action and Awareness Day in Olympia.

Today, I want to share my story with the world. I want to raise awareness and let people know that I have a wonderful and healthy life, and so can others who live with HIV.

I have lived with this disease for 23 years and seen many people in my family die from it. But HIV has never defeated me. I will continue to fight and live my life to its greatest potential. There are so many things that make me who I am today. HIV is just one part of me.

Guest blogger Tranisha Arzah is 23-years-old, lives in Seattle and works as a peer advocate at BABES Network-YWCA. This program was founded in 1989 by a diverse group of HIV+ women who realized the issues they faced – domestic violence, fear of losing custody of their children, medical care providers who understood women’s needs, dual and multiple diagnoses – were largely ignored by an AIDS service system designed to meet the needs of upper-middle income white men. Today, BABES Network is managed by the YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish and uses a peer leadership model to empower women. Through support groups, training, mentoring and more, the voices of positive leaders are lifted up to make a difference in their own lives and in their community. 

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