Some would say that living with a disease like HIV doesn’t seem like a purpose, but for Keisha Tabb, it allowed her to discover hers.
In front of 15 community members and students Wednesday, Tabb discussed her life and the struggles she has faced since contracting HIV from her former boyfriend, who contracted the disease in prison.
When Tabb first learned she was HIV positive 14 years ago, she was 27 and pregnant with her first son. She didn’t know how to react.
Still a relatively new disease, information about HIV was scarce during the early 1990s. When she was diagnosed, Tabb said she only knew HIV as “the gay white man” disease – GRID or Gay-Related Immune Deficiency was what AIDS was originally called.
After a Cesarean section retrieved her premature 2-pound, 9-ounce baby boy, Tabb had her son tested for HIV. When the test came back positive, she was alarmed.
“Instead of facing problems like this, I would run from them,” she said. “I was in shock from this point on.”
Her doctor advised her not to name her child, because his chance for survival was slim. It was a wake up call for Tabb.
“I learned I do have the right to ask questions, especially when it comes to me, my well being and the well being of others,” Tabb said.
Her son is now 14.
As a wife and mother of two, Tabb still dedicates a lot of her time talking to various groups about what it is like living with HIV and how she and her son deal with it. She has participated in numerous media campaigns and public service announcements to help educate others. She also challenges her audiences to ask questions, especially when they get into new relationships.
“I chose to gain information and knowledge about the disease,” she said. “I always look for a window of opportunity to talk about HIV/AIDS, even though it’s hard sometimes.”
Tabb said people need to empower themselves and know who they are “laying down with.”
“If you are going to do it together, you should get tested together,” she said.
The presentation was the last of the Women at Noon Series for this semester and also served as a precursor for World AIDS Day on Friday.
“It was just natural that we have a topic related to World AIDS Day. It also brings it home, puts a face to this disease and empowers people to learn more about it,” said Shauna DeLuca, the interim coordinator for the Office of International Programs.
Maryl Baldridge, a senior sociology major, works for the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies and attended all of the Women at Noon Series presentations.
“I always learn so much and it’s a really nice opportunity to hear about a topic I’m interested in and hear their personal stories,” she said.
After sharing her story, Tabb said she has come to terms with her disease.
“You can’t take life for granted,” she said. “It has been a really rewarding challenge to stop and listen, look up and live life to the fullest.”
Staff writer Stephanie Gerlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil
6 to 8 p.m. Friday
Lory Student Center Art Lounge
For more information, visit www.international.colostate.edu or contact Shauna DeLuca at 491-5917.