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One woman’s testimony of surviving HIV/AIDS

Rhonda Crowder | 11/27/2013, 10:01 a.m.
A mother of two children, working as a supervisor at the Holiday Inn, the news devastated her and ultimately changed ...
Helima Grant Photo by James W. Wade III

Halima Grant, now in her fifties, contracted HIV/AIDS through casual heterosexual sex some twenty years ago. She learned of her diagnosis when she decided to get a HIV test after hearing about Magic Johnson’s status.

A mother of two children, working as a supervisor at the Holiday Inn, the news devastated her and ultimately changed her life. Because she learned of her status around the end of October, she had to reveal it to her family during Thanksgiving dinner.

“They didn’t know how to act. Everybody was afraid that they could get it. So, I had to sit away from them. And, we never ate out of paper plates before but I had to eat of paper plates. It was really bad because I was literally by myself.”

Grant’s son, at that time, couldn’t accept knowing his mother carried the HIV virus so he went to live with his aunt. Her daughter held on tight, didn’t want to like her go. Everyone thought she would die.

“Back then it was a death sentence,” Grant said.

Grant went on to explain that she did take, AZT, an early HIV/AIDS medicine. But it made her sick and there was not much medicine for women on the market at that time. Back then, her T-cells counted was as low as 20. A normal person’s is between 1500 and 1800.

“I didn’t want to take the medicine. I wanted to see if I could do it with the medicine but I learned that I couldn’t,” she said. Psychologically, she began to fall apart.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Grant, who eventually pushed her daughter away. “So I figured I was going to rush the process. I started doing drugs.”

Grant smoked primos, cigarettes laced with crack cocaine, or either marijuana and drank Jack Daniels with ginger ale on the side. “I did anything to try to kill myself and I found out the cocaine made the disease multiply like ten times in your body. But I kept doing it and was literally dying but I kept waking up.”

Having just accepted Christ into her life, she told her church of her status. “I thought they were going to gather around me and love me but instead – because, like I said, people weren’t educated about this disease – they got away from me. When I say I was by myself, I was by myself.”

In addition to feeling alone, grew week. But despite feeling too fatigue to hold down a job, Neuropathy causing pain in her legs and making it difficult for her to walk, and even developing Cancer in two places; she survived.

“I was lying in my bed one day – very, very sick. I had shingles and it was like God himself spoke to me. He said, ‘Get up. You’re not going to die. You’re waking up every day, you’re going to live, and you’re going to go out and tell the world about this disease.”

I really didn’t want to but God put it on my heart to do it, said Grant.