Times Have Changed: Jessica Glaspie Shares Her Story of Living With HIV

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Jessica Glaspie Biktarvy 1

Source: Jessica Glaspie / other

Jessica Glaspie transformed her HIV diagnosis into a life of advocacy. Diagnosed at the age of 22, the mother of three made it her mission to raise awareness about how far HIV treatment has come. She shared her journey with MADAMENOIRE, speaking about her advocacy, how she manages her diagnosis and the importance of continuing treatment.

The Diagnosis

Jessica was 22 years old when she received her diagnosis. She was at the doctor seeking treatment for swollen lymph nodes when a blood test revealed that she was positive for HIV. She still remembers the date: Dec. 21, 2009. “I was shocked. I was uneducated at the time, so I really thought that HIV was AIDS, which is still a huge stigma and misconception today,” she told MN.

Managing HIV

Thanks to continuing advances in medicine, these days, HIV is considered a manageable chronic disease. “Adherence to your medication is your number one priority when you’re living with HIV,” said the author and advocate.

Jessica takes one pill a day to manage her HIV. “It keeps my viral load undetectable, which means it cannot be transmitted sexually,” she explained.

Taking her medication went hand in hand with embracing a healthier lifestyle. “Some of the medications—they call it a ‘cocktail’—have three or four medications in one pill. So it’s a lot on your body if you don’t take care of it,” she explained. “I had to make choices to eat better, drink more water, you know, keep up with all of my doctor’s appointments and physicals because now I’m immunocompromised.”

Jessica visits her doctor for a check-up every six months. “It keeps me in the know of my viral load and my CD4 count, to know that the medication is still working the way that it should,” she said.

Jessica Glaspie Biktarvy 1

Source: Jessica Glaspie / other

Mental health and support system

Therapy has been a vital part of Jessica’s treatment journey. “I wish I would have gotten into therapy sooner,” she said. “I had been positive for almost seven years before I got into therapy.”

Mental health struggles can get in the way of a healthy lifestyle, as Jessica experienced firsthand. “When your mental health is suffering, sometimes you find it hard to take the medication,” she said.

“I know adherence (to medication) is not easy for everyone,” she added. “But I think the first step is taking care of your mental health and acknowledging that this is now a part of your life, and then taking the medication and adhering to it. We call it ‘continuing in care.’ You have to continue in care to be your best self.”

Through it all, Jessica leaned on her support system. “My support system was vital to my success today,” she said. “I don’t believe I would be as successful as I am without the support system that I had.”


Jessica found a way to rise above the stigma and help transform the narrative surrounding HIV/AIDS. She began her journey as an HIV/AIDS advocate in 2016. Today, Jessica speaks at colleges, non-profit organizations and more, sharing her journey and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. She wrote a memoir, Life, Love, and HIV, and is working on a children’s book called Mommy, Me, and HIV, which explores growing up with a mother with HIV from her daughter’s perspective.

Jessica isn’t afraid to include her children, who are all HIV-negative, in the conversation. “A lot of times, children are not included, but they are affected by having HIV-positive parents,” she said. “Having those conversations with your kids is hard but necessary.”

There is hope

Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. live with HIV. However, about 13% of them do not know their status and need to be tested.

To those newly diagnosed with HIV, Jessica said there is hope. “This is not your end all be all. It has come a long way,” she said. “You can live a normal life—with disclosing your status to your partners—by adhering to your medication, getting into care and staying in care. And by ‘care,’ I mean physical, mental, and emotional health.”