Christina Rock | Does HIV Look Like Me?

In 1986, at the age of 2½, Christina’s mother, Elizabeth, an IV-drug user, fell extremely ill and tested positive for HIV.  Shortly thereafter, Christina was tested and became the first infant to be perinatally infected with HIV in the Florida Keys.  Growing up in the early days of the epidemic meant dealing with extreme stigma and adversity.  Her first memory is that of the day her mother tested positive and being told that Christina was no longer allowed to play in the community playground out of fear that she would infect the other children.  At the age of two AIDS meant exclusion, fear and judgment for Christina.  Even though she couldn’t understand HIV, she understood the ramifications and the need to keep it a secret.  After Christina’s diagnosis, her mother, Elizabeth fell into a catatonic state and had to be committed to a psychiatric hospital for the last six months of her life.  In 1986, there were no treatments for HIV and the prognosis was grim.  Christina’s doctors said that given what they knew at that time about HIV, she probably would not live to see her 10th birthday let alone graduate from high school.

After Elizabeth passed away, Christina grew up in Key West and was raised by her father Christopher, and Nancy, a woman she grew to call mom.  In 1989, the first medication was approved to treat HIV.  She was a very sickly child, plagued with chronically swollen lymph nodes, almost monthly ear infections and yearly bouts of pneumonia.  As if dealing with HIV wasn’t difficult enough, Christina also had to deal with a “family friend” who started molesting her at the age of seven and continued for almost five years.  The year 1996 was not only the year she learned to stand up for herself and stop the molestation, but also the “great turn around” year in HIV.  The FDA approved a new class of medications which was a huge step in treating those with the disease and eventually, Christina’s health started to improve dramatically.

At the age of 14, Christina moved to Massachusetts to live with her aunt and uncle.  She was finally able to disclose her history and the deep pain of the abuse and her aunt and uncle helped her to seek prosecution for the individual responsible.  With that behind her and the new medications she had a surprisingly normal adolescence.  HIV was still a secret to most of her peers which only complicated the already awkward environment of teenage dating. She went through teenage rebellion like any teen, but in her case it manifested by way of not taking her medicine. It eventually led to another bout of illness, a hospitalization, and eventually an AIDS diagnosis.  It was a wake-up call and fortunately she was able to take control of her life and make healthier choices.

She lived to do what she once thought was impossible — graduate from high school.  Christina got involved and realized that even though people knew how to test for HIV, how to treat it and how to prevent transmission that infections were still happening at an alarming rate.  Christina made the decision to go public with her story after realizing that her story is powerful and one that must be told.

Only by talking about her life and experience with HIV can she feel like she is doing her part to fight this devastating epidemic.  People need to hear that even though there are treatments available, it is an epidemic we cannot continue to be apathetic about.  She hopes by sharing her story she can educate as many people as possible as well as dispel the stigma that continues to surround HIV.

2011/12

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TESTIMONIALS

Both Todd and Christina gave a educational and emotional presentation that had a clear impact on the students. Never losing sight of their audience and always speaking to them as equals.

Stash Wislocki – Executive Director
Telluride AIDS Benefit

CHARITY OF CHOICE

Indiana Youth Group provides a safe place, a confidential environment, youth development programs and support services which foster personal strength and wellness among self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. IYG advocates on their behalf in schools, on the streets, and in the community.

Hope's Voice will donate to the speaker's chosen CHARITY OF CHOICE for each program booked.

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