Jamie Gentille was born in 1979. She was born with a heart defect that required open heart surgery when she was just 3-years-old. The surgery was successful and she was able to move into her childhood just like any other carefree kid.
When she was 8-years-old, around 1987, it was discovered and then publicized for public safety concerns that some of the blood supply used for transfusions hadn't been properly screened and that blood could have contained the HIV virus.
Jamie's parents took her to the doctor just to verify that the blood she had received during her heart surgery wasn't part of the tainted supply. The doctor informed Jamie's parents that she was in fact HIV-positive, then flatly told them she had 2-years to live.
Jamie said, "My parents knew that I had always been a strong and healthy kid, but at that time, no one ever lived with HIV. Having just been given a death sentence for their youngest child, my parents put on brave faces and spoiled me rotten. I was oblivious to what was occurring, but I sure was loving the attention."
In those 2-years, when she was 10, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had approved drug protocols for pediatric HIV patients. Jamie said, "Given that I finally had a fighting chance, my parents informed me of my HIV-positive status so that I would understand why I was going to a different hospital, undergoing strange tests, and taking new medications.
"Growing up, I mostly kept quiet about my status. Younger people didn't know what they didn't know. I would hear comments made about HIV but they we're just uneducated."
She continued, "The earliest time I remember feeling different because I was HIV-positive was when my family moved to Pennsylvania to get out of the city. I wanted to stay in touch with my best friend who had lived 2-doors down from us. At first we did stay in touch and had sleepovers but then they stopped. My parents told me that my friend's parents were uncomfortable with us being together. The funny thing was, her dad was a physician.
"The only other times I really realized a wall between my classmates and myself was when I had to go to the school nurse for my meds every day. That kind of raised some questions. I also wasn't able to really participate in any sleepovers at friends houses because of the meds that I had to take at very specific times and my parents weren't going to trust anybody else with that.
"I'm thankful that I had the strength of a loving family and the support of a caring medical community. I'm thankful my doctors have the information they need to take care of me." She said, " I am here because of well-timed research. This research has created a world of hope in the United States. The work of brilliant researchers and scientists has allowed me to be thankful and hopeful. I'm thankful that I had and will have the medical resources that I need to stay healthy."
Today, Jamie describes herself as "A healthy young adult." At 36, she has been working in the child life department of a pediatric hospital for 14-years where tapping into her own experiences has let her help many others. She's been happily married for 10-years.
She also is an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which leads the way worldwide to end HIV infections in children, where she's active as a speaker and advocate by supporting their work and sharing her story.
Jamie says, "I still participate in research at the National Institutes of Health in helping them study the long-term effects of treatment and to help them to continue to receive research money. The advances in HIV research has done so well, that sometimes the research dollars go elsewhere."
She recently published her memoir titled, "Surviving HIV: Growing Up a Secret and Being Positive," which is available on Amazon and Kindle. She said, "Writing the memoir took me 3-years. It turned out to be very cathartic for me. It could have been horrible but I turned out to be very appreciative for a lot of the experiences."
When asked what advice she would give someone newly diagnosed with HIV, she said, "Take it one step at a time. It's going to take some time to sink in but you don't have to keep it to yourself. If you stick to your treatment, it's a chronic disease rather than a terminal one. Oh...and read my book!"
To order Jamie's book follow this link: www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=surviving+HIV+growing+up+a+secret+and+being+positive. On Amazon and for Kindle.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) is the global leader in the fight to end AIDS in children. Since their inception 26 years ago, there has been a 95 percent decline in new pediatric HIV infections in the U.S., and a 58 percent decline in the number of new infections in children worldwide. The science and medicine is available to get that number almost to zero. EGPAF is focused on ending AIDS in children and families with a three-pronged focus on research, advocacy, and HIV service delivery in the countries with the greatest HIV burden.
Copyright 2018, Positive Health Publications, Inc.
This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!