So what’s it really like to be a regular 18-year-old girl… And HIV positive
Teenager Ashley Rose Murphy, a motivational speaker and HIV/AIDS charity ambassador describes what it's like living with HIV positive.
Teenagers think HIV and AIDS are diseases of the past. They are wrong. I’m the modern face of HIV.
‘Are you HIV positive?’ the doctors asked my mother. It was 1998 and I was three months old. I had been rushed to hospital after going into cardiac arrest. Doctors discovered I had Pneumocystis Pneumonia, common in people with weakened immune systems. HIV seemed the only explanation.
‘No,’ mum replied. But in truth she didn’t know. She’d never been tested before. A test later that confirmed that we were both positive. She had passed HIV on to me while I was still in her womb.
My mother was a beautiful woman with sparkling blue eyes, long brown hair and a wide smile. She liked to make jokes and sing rock songs. But she was also a woman plagued by addictions that made her unfit to care for me.
Social services called 200 foster families pleading with them each one to take me – a sick 3 month old baby, but nobody was interested. Finally one lady – Kari Murphy, who, at the time, had five children with special needs said ‘yes’. She rushed down to the hospital to see me, with my translucent skin and bald head, what little hair I had falling out on the hospital pillow. ‘She’ll be lucky to live a month,’ the doctor said. ‘She’s not going anywhere. She’ll live,’ Kari replied.
She was right. Today, I am 18 and I have more than lived: I have triumphed with her as my adoptive mother. At ten, I started to give talks to medical associations about being born with HIV/AIDS. I was one of the only children who allowed myself to be identified because I have always, even when doctors and my parents said it was not a good idea, been honest and public with my diagnosis. At 16, I started speaking with Free the Children, the world’s largest charity of kids helping kids.
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