Janine Brignola | Does HIV Look Like Me?
Janine Brignola
Janine Brignola

I remember the exact moment that I learned I was pregnant, and although unplanned, I’d never been so happy.

I took a pregnancy test the day before my 24th birthday and spent my birthday singing and playing pool with my girlfriends at my fathers house instead of hitting up a bar. Although afraid what my future would be as a single parent, I was excited. I knew that despite being alone I would be the best mommy possible.

The first couple of months went slowly and comfortably, however at the end of my third month, the doctor informed me he wanted further blood testing and I thought nothing of this. I suspected signs of gestational diabetes which would not affect my child. I never considered that the information I would receive would forever change my life.

On the morning of October 4, 2006 I awoke to a phone call from the doctors office. I answered, and the nurse told me they had found something and asked if I could come in. Immediately, I knew something was wrong. I told her that she would need to tell me so I could prepare myself for our encounter. Within seconds she answered me and then ended the call. I sat stunned, playing the words HIV positive over and over again.

I remember thinking hope was worthless. I didn’t know much about HIV. My baby would never have a chance at life. I thought I am going to die, I am going to give birth to this baby and I have nothing to offer.

About a week later I went to a doctor who specialized in high risk pregnancies. He told me that it was possible to deliver a healthy negative baby. He gave me the miracle medicine, (antiretrovirals) which I took twice a day, every day. The first side effects were a struggle. Eventually the side affects became less frequent. I lay in bed crying, holding my stomach and apologizing to my unborn child. I remember thinking how could I be so happy and so sad at the same time. No other mistakes I had made could compare to this.

As the nine months drew to an end, to my relief, I was told I would be able to have a normal child birth. I went into labor on the morning of April 17th, and I gave birth to my son Frederick. I laid in the hospital room, holding my beautiful son and marveling at his presence. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him I couldn’t believe that this little tiny person had come from me. He was, and still is the best thing that ever happened to me….

After my son was born he was tested for HIV right away and was put on the miracle medicine. He was then tested every six months. All tests were negative. My baby was not only spectacular but he was healthy! I feel like I am not only an example to others with HIV but I get the opportunity to be a parent to an amazing healthy child. As much as I struggled getting him here, I wouldn’t change anything It is not impossible to have a negative child born to an HIV positive mother, and you can still have the indescribably awesome experience of child birth.

I hope that my story inspires others to find strength in their own life and to know that loving yourself is important and knowing your status can mean keeping others HIV negative, including your own little one.



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