“You have to love yourself first. Once you love yourself,
you'll see that other people will love you, too.”
Ke’Taryn received her HIV diagnosis in her early twenties, but it wasn’t the first time her life changed. She came out as trans at sixteen years old, enduring family members turning their backs on her, betrayal from those she trusted, and the stigma that comes with being both trans and HIV positive.
And yet, Ke’Taryn is determined to turn her past hardships into good for others. She wants nothing more than to work in the HIV field, to help those in the LGBT community, and to one day become a social worker aiding those that have gone through what she has.
Read her incredible story.
Life as a trans woman
When Ke’Taryn came out as trans to her family as a teenager, her mother wouldn’t accept it. She refused to let Ke’Taryn dress as a girl and be herself. Her father and his family wouldn’t accept her either.
“I (told my mother) if she loves me or whatever,
she'll let me be myself.”
Unable to live authentically, Ke’Taryn left home to stay with a friend. “I (told my mother) if she loves me or whatever, she'll let me be myself.”
Ke’Taryn took an incredibly strong stance for such a young age. She told her mother that she would only communicate with her and let her be in her life if she was accepted.
It took a few months, but Ke’Taryn’s mother did come around. She invited Ke’Taryn to come home, accepting her as a trans woman. “Now (we) have a good relationship. She doesn't have an issue with me being who I am.”
While her early life was already hard, Ke’Taryn would soon face a challenge of a different kind.
Taking all precautions
Ke’Taryn was always committed to safety, using condoms with all her sexual partners. Then, in her early twenties, she met a man that she grew to trust. When he assured her that he had no STIs, she believed him, and had unprotected sex.
Only, Ke’Taryn soon found out that she’d been misled. Her partner had been HIV positive. “I was feeling really, really sick.” Deciding to get tested, Ke’Taryn’s life changed when she received her positive diagnosis.
Her initial reaction was sadness. “I actually felt like I would never ever be able to find anyone.” She wondered if anyone would love her for herself again.
However, over time, Ke’Taryn really began to realize that an HIV-positive life is not that different than an HIV-negative one. She learned to be kind to herself again, seeing that she was deserving of love, and that her HIV status was not the terrible sentence.
Ke’Taryn also immediately began her HIV medication. Since her diagnosis, her adherence has been perfect. “I've been undetectable and I'm definitely gonna stay undetectable for the rest of my life.”
“I've been undetectable
and I'm definitely gonna stay undetectable
for the rest of my life.”
She gets injections of HIV medicine every two months to suppress her viral load, which she prefers to a daily pill. “I don't have to take a pill every day. Just shots every two months. Can't wait (for them to) come out with the six months (injection).”
Today, she receives her HIV care and her gender-affirming care in the same place, from the same doctor, which she loves. “It's very important because you don't have to go to different places just to get what you need.”
Being undetectable has been a source of comfort and confidence in her life. As medication continues to improve for those living with HIV, her situation is only looking up.
“You’re just like everyone else. You’re no different.”
If Ke’Taryn could give those newly diagnosed with HIV any advice, it’s to stay on medication and to prioritize mental health. “It’ll help you love yourself more.”
Stay on medication and prioritize mental health.
“It’ll help you love yourself more.”
Speaking with therapists massively changed her outlook on life. It helped her realize that not only was she deserving of love from herself, but that there would be people out there that would love her for her, too.
She also found a support network in the Positive Peers app. “It helped me know that there's other people out there that are like me, that are going through the same things that I'm going through.” By speaking with other HIV-positive people, she has found happiness and a community that believes in her.
A force for good
Today, Ke’Taryn wants to use her experiences to help others. “I actually always wanted to be an HIV advocate.”
Ke’Taryn is hard at work finding employment in the HIV field and ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community. She wants to help those who are going through what she went through. “I was there, in that type of space, and I just wanna change lives and be there to help people.”
She has her sights set on becoming a social worker to assist others. Her plan is to find work in the LGBT community as an HIV advocate, to put down roots, and then go to school to become a licensed social worker.
We can’t wait to see how she will positively affect those who are going through what she did. “I really hope that I can help people and change people's lives.”
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