Houston’s Dena Gray remembers it like it was yesterday… the day she, a young college student, was told by a doctor she was going to die.
“Her first thing to me was people who live with HIV can live up to five to ten years. And I always think back that’s the worst thing you can tell somebody is a timeline on how long they’re going to live.”
It was 1991 in December of that Year Basketball great Magic Johnson shocked the world, announcing he had HIV. Back then most people thought he had little time to live. Well it was just a month later that Dena found out she too had HIV.
“It wasn’t a promiscuous lifestyle. I wasn’t a prostitute. I wasn’t doing drugs. I was doing the same thing we all do. You’re dating, you’re having sex, you’re not having a conversation about the risks, and at that time.. it was a new risk.”
Seventeen years later both Dena and Magic are still alive and doing well. State Senator Rodney Ellis wants to pass a law in Texas that would require laboratories to test a persons blood for HIV if they’re already going to be test it for other reasons, unless the patient says no.
“Treating AIDS is not only more costly, it’s more difficult. Early diagnosis saves lives, money and heartaches. Furthermore, studies have shown that once a person knows that their positive status, he or she will take positive steps to protect their partners.”
Experts say people are living longer with HIV, because they’re finding out earlier and being treated. The senators law could cause even more people to find out their status sooner. As for Dena, she says its not just the medication that’s keeping her going.
“Medications works well, but then so does prayer. She’s been living and praying for 17 years now and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.”
Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.