My name is Naimah O’Neal and I have been living with HIV since 1992. Twenty-seven years! Sometimes, I still find it hard to believe. If someone had asked me twenty-seven years ago if I could foresee being the woman I am today, I would have said no way.  Today, as a woman of color, I use my voice to bring a face to this virus. With this first blog, I want to share a poem that I wrote a year ago to express the impact HIV criminalization has had on my life. The poem is entitled: Who’s sleeping in My BED with ME! I am not asking you to understand or accept the words, just know that I fear the world more than you should fear me.

The life I live with H.I.V. can change depending on who needs Me!

My children and family love me, so H.I.V. is great for Me!

In my J.O.B., H.I.V. is a mixed bag of questions and sympathy towards me. Let’s face it; people are people who have questions about how I obtained it. This is an educational moment for M.E.!

Going out with friends is a piece of cake because having fun is more important than having H.I.V. for M.E.!

Some people say, “Then, girl! WHAT THE HELL IS THE PROBLEM?” I then say wanting to love, or be loved by a man, is something you take for granted because that’s hard for Me!

H.I.V. criminalization has become a landmine where walking and talking can blow up in your face. Having a full-time job and getting some dick could create jail time and a spot on the 11 o’clock news even if you disclose! Dating becomes a question mark about, When, How, and If I tell. 

A hospital stay for the lucky ones who were not put in the grave by an ass-hole who said, “baby, a condom takes away from me feeling your juices.” Frankly, I am tired of being the one on the hook for two adults having S.E.X.!!! Really! 

Say it with M.E. people, personal responsibility!!!

Life for me with H.I.V. criminalization is like an aunt who says just keep your legs closed, but her son is trying to open them. Like a pastor with three families in different states, or like number 45. Like people who want their cake and eat it too. 

IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE.

My life with H.I.V. criminalization helps me make better choices, but it can also, in its present condition, turn my life upside down. 

Because an ass hole thinks the three letters, H.I.V. gives him control over M.E.!!!


Naimah O’Neal is a social worker living in Ohio and an H.I.V. advocate, speaker, and member of various H.I.V. groups, including two national groups.