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Being Wanda: One Woman’s Story of Surviving and Thriving After an HIV Diagnosis

By Sixty and Me August 10, 2016 Lifestyle

“When you’re going through menopause, and you’re a seasoned woman, and you’ve been through three really serious relationships and the last one you thought would be forever, and to wake up alone, and… it’s hard. It really took me a long time to get over that depression. You know, I covered it up with super-volunteerism.” – Wanda for Graying of AIDS

It is my privilege and honor to be sponsored by Walgreens’ Well Beyond HIV campaign. One month before my 62nd birthday, I’d like to share a little about my journey.

Though this is a sponsored article, the words are ALL Wanda!

In 1999, my 3rd marriage came to an end… and, not by my choice. I was heartbroken for several months. Then I met a man I thought was my knight in shining armor in early 2000. Unfortunately, this relationship ended with my son rescuing me and my entering the local battered women’s shelter.

At the Shelter, They Taught Us About Self-Care

Given that over the last few months of the brutal relationship I had been losing weight, having recurrent sore throats and episodes of oral thrush… I determined I needed to see a doctor. It was then that I was diagnosed HIV-positive in July 2002.

Despite having been a registered nurse for 20 years, starting in 1981 when HIV received its name, I had not even considered that I was at risk. After all, almost all of the risk factors advertised do not include heterosexual white women.

I Was Diagnosed with AIDS in May 2008

I was in a new relationship (started in 2004) that sadly was showing signs of cracking.

As happens with many of us living with HIV, depression set in hard. I stopped taking my ARTs (Antiretroviral Therapy…the meds that control the virus circulating in our bodies). I was admitted to the hospital with Trigeminal Shingles, an opportunistic infection that would not have happened if I had stayed on my ARTs. I resumed taking my meds as directed, going to my doctor appointments and taking care of me. I started volunteering with the AIDS Care Service in 2009.

Today, I am Living Very Healthily and Happily with My Diagnosis

In fact, over July 4th weekend, I went on my very first camping trip ever with my daughter, her husband and my 2 eldest grands.

If I am honest, I thought I would find a way to back out of going… but I didn’t…and I had a wonderful time!

Here is a view of caves across Dan River from our campsite:walgreens campsite

I found my healing through super volunteerism… starting with AIDS Care Service when they rescued me from homelessness at age 55. I have thankfully been securely housed since June 2011 at almost 58!

This is me today at almost 62… I am truly living “Well Beyond HIV” and proud to be “Graying with AIDS!”

Here Are a Few Truths about Older Adults Living with HIV

Today there are about 1.2-million people in United States living with HIV. About half of us are over the age of 50. Thanks to the medical miracle of ARTs, we are living longer, healthier lives. We see our doctors and eat as healthily as we can. We also rest and stay as active as we can.

For me, taking advantage of Walgreens’ mail service takes a lot of stress off my mind. They help by calling each month to set up deliveries, following up with my doctors when refills are needed, offering me chance to talk with an HIV-specialized pharmacist if I have any questions and reminding me when it is time for ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) renewals.

For those who are not crazy about getting their medicine in the mail (I prefer it because I don’t have transportation), you can elect to go into a local Walgreens!

If I can leave you with couple thoughts…

Love Yourself… Live “Well Beyond HIV”!

Here are a few positive messages from the website I hope that you will go and check out the many more that are so inspiring!

Have you or someone you know been given a serious medical diagnosis and gone on to thrive? What did you learn from the experience? Please join the conversation and visit to find out more about the initiative.

This sponsored post was brought to you by Walgreens. Walgreens is committed to supporting those living with HIV. Through more than 800 Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies throughout the country, more than 2,000 specially trained pharmacists provide confidential, face-to-face medication therapy consultations and health and wellness guidance to help patients manage HIV, common comorbid conditions such as hepatitis C and other conditions generally associated with aging. For more information on Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies, visit

Photo credit: Gianna Haley

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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