By Candice Fernandez
“My dad was planning my funeral after 14th birthday” – a young woman has spoken out about her life with HIV after her mum passed on the disease.
Lexi Gibson, from Las Vegas, was diagnosed with HIV at the age of two after contracting the disease from her mother.
The 25 year old’s mum, Tracey Atkinson, tragically died from the disease herself when Lexi was just five years old.
Lexi was bullied throughout school due to her HIV status and by aged 14, her father, planned her funeral.
After being abandoned by him and tossed through different care homes – Lexi was finally adopted by Shannon Wentworth, 45.
Lexi now has a boyfriend, Shayne Stage, 25, who she has unprotected sex with her as pioneering medication has left her HIV ‘undetectable.’
She has since has gone on to become an advocate for HIV – and has now spoken out in a bid to eliminate the stigma towards the virus.
Lexi said: “When I was two, both my mum and I were diagnosed with HIV.
“My mum was unaware of having it, blood tests were not so common then and so she passed it onto me.
“My brother and father were negative but due to their not being enough medication back then my mum passed away when I was five.
“Her immune system was already broken down by the virus by the time they got to her.
“After she died, it torn my family apart.
“After 12 years of misery I got to a point where I refused to take my medication any more, I was tired of all the crazy side effects.
“I think I threw up over 1000 times throughout my childhood.
“I was told by doctors that I wouldn’t live past 13.
“A year after that, when I was still alive, my dad and my step mum sat me down and planned my funeral.
“I was crying my eyes out, my dad said to me ‘you are going to die Lexi’.
“They both passed me a journal and told me to start writing in it so they had something of me when I die.”
Lexi found herself being in the care system and with HIV, she was a target for bullies.
She added: “I was living with HIV, throwing up constantly and had been abandoned by my family.
“I stopped throwing up when I stopped taking my meds at 13.
“A year later I was finally adopted by an amazing woman who had been my mentor called Shannon.
“Through PTSD, my RAD, and my behavioural issues, she did what she could and essentially saved my life.
“She didn’t send me to school for two weeks as she helped me get through the agonising medication and treatment.
“I went through nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, head spins and sometimes even hallucinations throughout my life with HIV.
“But after Shannon adopted me, a few weeks later the medication worked and I was undetectable.
“Growing up with HIV wouldn’t have had to be as hard as it was, if I would have had positive educated loving parents who were patient and strong minded.
“But I did eventually gained that with Shannon and I got the help I needed.
“I also was put onto a new medication where there was finally no bad side effects, unlike when the ones I was on when I was young.
“The drugs weren’t advanced and that was the reason my side effects used to be so bad.
“I now just take one pill a day and I can live normally.”
Lexi claims living in a society where HIV is taboo and often judged, she found it difficult to come out with the disease.
But after years of being HIV positive, she decided to out herself to the world on social media.
She has even gone on to have a boyfriend, Shayne, who does not have HIV.
Lexi said: “It was so hard because in school I used to have to sit in a corner of the classroom away from everyone because they thought I would give them HIV.
“Kids at my school called me ugly and ‘the girl with Aids’.
“When I was 23 I posted a YouTube video for the world to see that I had HIV.
“That was only two years ago, it has changed my life for the better.
“I now work as a HIV care specialist as I want to help others like me who live in fear.
“I also am in love and have a very happy relationship with my boyfriend Shayne.
“I told him soon after meeting him that I had HIV – I educated him properly on it.
“He is so supportive and never embarrassed.
“We have unprotected sex as I cannot transmit the virus now.
“We haven’t had one single fight regarding HIV, or any fights in general.
“There is a stigma toward HIV and people who are positive.
“People are conditioned from rumours and old knowledge about HIV, creating them to fear and spread fear.
“I want to change this terrible stigma and let people realise that only the stigma spreads this virus.
“I now live a normal, happy and healthy life.”
Lexi’s boyfriend, Shayne, from Escondido, California, said: “Lexi’s positive status never bothered me.
“When Lexi educated me about HIV, particularly being undetectable, it removed my own stigma toward HIV.
“I fell in love with her, regardless of her status.
“We have the most amazing relationship in the world.
“If people were educated about HIV and knew about the ability to become undetectable and the different preventions, the stigma and death rate would decrease.”