It was 2003, a couple days before the New Year, when I was 30 years old. My boyfriend called me from OPP (Orleans Parish Prison) saying he tested positive for HIV. We had 2 kids together at this point. We didn’t even get a chance to talk, he hung up right after he said “I’m just telling you because they said I should tell you,” without conversation or communication about it. I trusted him. He was the only person I had been having sex with for years, even though I know he had other women sometimes. I was the main girl, though. I didn’t feel sick. I thought because I didn’t feel bad that only he had it, and that I didn’t. Why get tested for HIV if I didn’t feel sick? I really believed that I didn’t need to get tested.
After 2 years, right before Hurricane Katrina, I started feeling sick for a while and went to the doctor. They did a bunch of blood work and tested me for everything, including HIV. I didn’t specifically ask for an HIV test, but they suggested I do all the tests to make sure. I was feeling so sick that I said okay, run all the tests. The HIV test came back positive - and I received an AIDS diagnosis at the same time. That meant that I had HIV for a while and it was really affecting my body. I was scared to tell my family and friends, scared to tell anyone! The doctors linked me up to a clinic and I started to take the medicine so that I could start feeling better. If I knew what I know now, I would have taken that test the next day instead of years after my boyfriend called me to tell me that he had HIV. My body could have bounced back way easier and quicker. The most important thing is that I got tested.
Catrice’s story is one of our HIV Testing & Prevention program’s "Role Model Stories” in which real people describe how they made a change to reduce their risk and improve their health as it relates to HIV and AIDS. Names have been changed and the images are staged with actors.