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A Closer Look: Q&A with Brooke Davidoff, HIV-Positive Mother, Wife, and Advocate

Brooke Davidoff was diagnosed with HIV in January 2010 — two months married and 11 weeks pregnant with her first baby — and has already begun to educate others about HIV. She lives in Seattle and writes a blog on thebody.com called Voice of ONE.

What was your reaction when you learned of your HIV diagnosis?

When I found out I was numb, I guess. I had not been sick in 4+ years with anything, not even a cold. I assumed my husband would be positive also, not knowing that it’s harder for women to pass it than it is for men. I was afraid I was going to die.

It took years for me to learn where I even got it. Had it not been for Facebook, I’d still have NO idea. I don’t think that’s okay. I don’t think I should have had to email my exes on Facebook after my husband tested negative to have them all get tested. I was angry at the medical community for putting young women on birth control and never having them get an HIV test when they go in for their annual pap and their renewal of birth control.

I left, let down by my doctors for not warning me more that I was at risk, that HIV was everywhere, even upper middle class neighborhoods. I really had no idea I was at risk.

What was your experience receiving prenatal and postnatal care after your HIV diagnosis?

After my 1st OBGYN treated me like an alien, I found one who only worked with high risk pregnancies. It was awesome since her and all her staff ONLY dealt with high risk women. I felt normal going there and not like everyone who worked there was looking at me and KNEW. It also made my husband and I more comfortable asking questions since this doctor didn’t have to check with an HIV doctor and get back to us.

How has your relationship with your baby been impacted?

He SAVED my life is how I see it. If the only time doctors test woman is when they are pregnant, I’m not sure how else we are supposed to know. My son is my reason for taking my meds, my reason for getting out of bed each day. He is my everything. And with the death of my father from a motorcycle accident when I was 6 months pregnant with his first grandchild,  my son was my strength. He still is.

How have you found community and support?

There is a local co-ed support group I found in Seattle. I do not make it to their events or meetings often since they are held in the evenings or during the day, and I work full time. I have found friends from my blog on The Body; we email and Facebook each other weekly if not more. I talk to most of them more than I do my ‘normal’ friends.

What resources have helped you and what resources do you wish you had?

The whole page on The Body is really helpful.  The Chat Boards are also a good place to go read other peoples’ posts and issues, and chime in on them or offer emotional support to total strangers.

Life Long AIDS Alliance was also a great help. We were on a program while my husband was a stay-at-home father where they delivered free food to our home once a week.

I wish there was more help out there to pay for meds, and medical bills. Yes we have two incomes, but we have the same bills everyone else has plus $100.00 on meds a month. Rent, car payments, childcare costs, gas to get our gas hungry SUV to work and home every day of the week. My blood work bill is usually $1500.00 and I’ve been having that done at least every other month. So these bills just sit in a pile in a kitchen drawer.

What advice do you have for other mothers who are HIV-positive? 

Find other HIV-positive women and talk to them about your fears, your thoughts, since your non-HIV+ friends will not have the same fears you do. You have to vent about your frustration about where you got it, who you got it from – even if its NOT to people you knew pre-diagnosis. The friends I have made since the diagnosis understand me so much more than life long friends I have had. We have this unspoken bond that comes effortlessly. You don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed you have it. You need to get over that to be a positive person and love your children. Be there for them everyday. Make memories with them, help them be amazing little people. Make sure they know how much they mean to you. Don’t come home from work and ignore them because you are stressed out. Make some popcorn and watch a Disney Movie, or color, have a dance party with them. Let them show you how easy it is to have fun and LIVE fearlessly.

3 Responses to A Closer Look: Q&A with Brooke Davidoff, HIV-Positive Mother, Wife, and Advocate

  1. Lucy Terribile says:

    Love you Brooke! You are impacting so many people with who you are. Even if you don’t think do I know you are so strong. You’re a great person, mom, wife, daughter, and friend. Xoxoxo

  2. Brad says:

    And your Father would be proud of the strong woman and caring mother that you are.

  3. Linda says:

    Brooke, you are an amazing mother and person.. Your dad would not be proud of you, HE IS proud of you. I love you and just know if you ever need to talk or vent, this ‘normal’ (I know the normal is up for discussion), cousin is always here with an open ear, open heart and will never judge you or turn her back. xoxo

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