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My family's story

Hi, my name is Tiffany. I wanted to share the story of my life to help educate people who don't know about AIDS and to give support for those who live with it. I can't even imagine the feeling you get when you learn that you have a life threatening disease, such as, AIDS. I am not the one who is sick. I'm writing about my aunt and cousin.

April, 1996-This was the beginning of what would be the saddest years of my life. My mom got a call from my grandmother, she was crying telling her to come to her house. She lived right next door, so my mom took off running. What she was about to learn never even crossed her mind on the way there. I'm sure she thought my grandfather had fell or something to that nature. About an hour later my mom came in, she could barely walk she was crying so hard. When she said, " Sherry is HIV positive", my heart sank and I got this sick feeling in my stomach. I didn't know exactly what it was; it didn't take long for me to learn more than the teachers at my school. Three months before my aunt had been put in the hospital with pneumonia and that is when the test was done. When we got the results in April they said my aunt had six months...I think that is what they tell everybody. To summarize the events that happened during the months that followed, my whole family got tested. Everyone tested negative, except my Aunt‚s youngest daughter, Harley, her test came back positive. Doctors figured my Aunt contracted AIDS through sexual intercourse and that Harley got it while she was in the womb. We contacted my Aunt‚s old boyfriends to tell them so they could get tested. All of them came back negative, even her ex-husband, who is the father of Harley. My Aunt now has to live a life of constant worry and an abundance of pills and doctor visits.

Sherry and Harley began to see doctors in Atlanta. They went every three months to get their viral load, which is how much of the virus is actually in the body. This was when we found out Sherry had full-blown AIDS, which means there was no turning back. Harley was announced to have just HIV. It gave my family a little hope, but not much. Sherry was thirty-one and Harley just three when they where diagnosed. Their lives were changed forever.

As strong as she was, Sherry made it past six months. Her viral load never got any better, but she was determined to live. We went to church every Sunday and had the church members pray for our family and afterwards we would have a big family meal. This was the only time I cam remember my family really getting together. Sherry did not let her chances of a short life slow her down. She loved the outdoors. She loved hunting, fishing, and especially mud-riding. She was still a tomboy at thirty-one. She was an artist as well. Christmas that year she did not have a lot of money so for presents she decorated little knick-knacks for everyone. She was happy and in good spirits.

During the earlier years of Sherry and Harley‚s struggle, the Make a Wish Foundation granted Harley's wish and we were all sent to Florida to see Mickey Mouse. I think it was sort of a healing to both of them. They looked so happy. They rode every ride and saw every Disney character. I am thankful that we got to experience that together and have those memories to think of instead of the ones that were to come.

Slowly things changed and Sherry rarely went anywhere or done anything. She stayed in her room that was covered in angels. She began having spells. The spells made her panic and hallucinate. They were cause by the damage her brain received from swelling. She would say she saw demons and ask God why he done this to Harley. She never cried for herself, just for her baby. She developed sores on her body from staying in bed all the time. She lost a lot of weight and seemed constantly depressed. AIDS is not what kills a person, AIDS just weakens their immune systems and they die from stuff, such as, pneumonia and cancers.

During December my mom told me that Sherry was sick and having spells again, but I never thought it would be the end because Sherry had had so many of these episodes. For two weeks my family met at my Grandmother‚s house and sat in my Aunt‚s room. My Aunt Tina would sing to her and we all would pray and cry. It was emotional and heartbreaking to say goodbye. She was already gone before she actually died. When she talked her words did not make sense and her eyes where already glazed over. It was like she was in another world. She did not seem in pain and we knew it was not going to be much longer. She talked about seeing Grandpa Bing, who died in 1982. We knew that it was almost her time.
On January 27,2000, at ten o‚clock, my Aunt Sherry let out her last breath of air. We called to have her taken to the funeral home. After four years of fighting my Aunt finally gave up on her struggle. Harley was just seven. On the night of the funeral it snowed and it was like a sign that Aunt Sherry was at peace. Harley let everyone know that her mommy sent the snow to let her know she was in Heaven. Harley is twelve now and we just found out that her viral load is 157...she has full-blown AIDS. It was terrible to learn of this. Harley is like in other girl...she loves boy and clothes! At school, some of the kids know she ahs AIDS and say really cruel things to her. I had to write a letter to the school just to help to solve this problem. I wish the best for my cousin. Thank you for caring enough to read about my family's story. If anyone would like to share his or her story I would be glad to listen. God Bless! -Tiffany-


Sent via Email, November 24, 2004 from Georgia, USA.


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