Beverly, 46, tested positive for HIV eight years ago. The Washington health educator stays abreast of the latest research and is optimistic about the future. Here’s her story.

What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?

I didn’t have any symptoms but knew I had put myself at risk. I had been an IV drug user for 16 years and had unprotected sex with someone who tested positive for HIV. I knew in my heart I could be infected but was afraid to be tested. But I knew people who were HIV positive and knew if they could deal with it, so could I. Finally in 1993, I went for testing. I didn’t start to show symptoms of a faltering immune system until 1996, when I developed vaginitis, colds, and sinus infections that were more severe than ever before.

What was the diagnosis experience like?

My doctor had tried to convince me to be tested, but I didn’t want my insurance company to know if I was HIV positive. I went to a clinic that provided anonymous testing. My name was not identified with the results. The woman who gave me the results looked more scared than I was. She gave me the name of a doctor, but I didn’t go. At the time, I was dead set against starting on drugs to treat HIV. My instincts served me well. Now they don’t recommend that early treatment.

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