Marvelyn Brown was young, beautiful and a former top track star. She was also in love.
But several years ago, Brown was struck by a sudden illness and was rushed to intensive care. Doctors made her undergo a battery of tests that revealed that the 19-year-old had acquired the HIV.
“I was 19 years old, a normal teenager who’d met a guy I really liked,” said Brown, who has chronicled her experience in a new book entitled “The Naked Truth–Young, Beautiful and HIV Positive.”
“We had unprotected sex. It only took one time, one impulsive moment, and my life was forever changed. Rather than looking forward to what should have been the “hey day” of my twenties, I was given a death sentence.”
Brown said that it took her a long time to face the mirror and to utter the fact that she was HIV positive. “When I look at myself today, I don’t see HIV. What I see instead is a young, beautiful, worthy and positive woman.”
Brown said she can still recall the reaction of family and friends when she broke the devastating news. “Suddenly, many of the people I loved and who’d cared about me were afraid to touch me, hug me or kiss me,” she recalls. “Many refused to believe I was HIV positive, so the topic was avoided altogether. To be able to look in the mirror and state the truth, what is fact, that I am HIV positive, was a major step for me. It’s also the moment when I realized that I do not live with HIV, rather HIV lives with me. And no matter how negatively the world views the virus, I will always love myself, no matter what.”
Brown said that she decided to place HIV in parenthesis on the title of her book because the world continues to define the disease as only affecting people with a certain look or belonging to a certain economic group. “I’m living proof that nothing is farther from the truth,” said Brown.
Brown said that despite having HIV, she is bravely facing the future. “Despite all the stigma and ignorance surrounding HIV/AIDS, I finally quit living my life for everyone else and started living it for me. The Naked Truth is about my journey of finding self-love, self-worth and self-acceptance despite this devastating virus.”
Brown’s book has elicited scores of comments on the AOL Black Voices blog, www.blackvoices.com. Views on Brown’s condition range from chastisement to support.
“It’s people like you that come forward and help educate the world,” typed one blogger. “Thank you. If this book opens the eyes of at least one person, you have made a difference.”