My Life with AIDS: Tragedy to Triumph by Catherine Wyatt-Morley
Catherine had a great life: a loving husband, two handsome young sons, a job, a roof over her family’s head. Then, one day after a scheduled surgical procedure – and an unauthorized blood test – Catherine found out she was HIV positive. Having never strayed from her marriage, she was perplexed as to how she could possibly have contracted the disease, but after encouraging her husband to get tested, the couple discovered that he was HIV positive too. Catherine’s husband closed off from his family, finding comfort at the bottom of a bottle instead, and Catherine faced discrimination from coworkers, religious community members, and even family. She lost her job for the simple fact that she had contracted a sexually transmitted illness, so strong was (and remains today) the stigma surrounding HIV. Catherine and her husband were also asked to find a different church, the couple’s HIV statuses essentially turning them into pariahs. Yet, despite all of this tremendous oppression, Catherine chose to learn as much about her disease as she could, so that she could educate her sons and other members of her community. Eventually, she garnered international attention after being invited to speak in Thailand regarding the country’s public health policies. Catherine’s story shows that even life’s largest misfortunes can be used as opportunities for personal growth and betterment.
My Life with AIDS delineates how utterly upturned a person’s life becomes when they contract a disease like HIV. Thankfully, news of having HIV isn’t synonymous with news of one’s impending death anymore, but managing the disease still requires a massive amount of medical care, money, and moxie. And, beyond that, there are severe psychological implications, with depression and suicidal thoughts occurring quite commonly. Through personal diary-like passages, Catherine communicates these thoughts, telling readers how she felt about her disease on certain days or at certain moments. My Life with AIDS is also shocking in that it illustrates how deeply rooted cultural misconceptions are about illnesses like HIV. When the disease first spread to Europe and North America it was largely ignored because people assumed it could only be contracted through gay sex. Those inaccuracies led many people to comfortably continue practicing unsafe sex for years to come, until the social stigma surrounding HIV began to wear thin. Though times may have changed, Catherine’s work just as important today. Thanks to her efforts spreading knowledge and awareness, numerous lives are being saved each and every day.
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