Ashley-rose-murphyLike my name, I am unique, complicated, and not so normal. Until recently I didn’t think I wanted to share my HIV story or that it was worth sharing.

I’m 21 years old and was born with HIV. I’ve been reluctant and scared to reveal this to almost anybody because of the stigma around the disease.

Also, if people knew my status, it meant it was real. For as long as I could, I hid from the world my disease and myself. After my parents passed away I further distanced myself from happiness and almost lost my life.

My denial, fear, avoidance, isolation caught up to me when I dropped to 81 pounds, had a CD4 count of 4 (normal range is 500 to 1200) and HIV viral load at the highest it had ever been.

After spending more time with my sister and doctor I had to come to terms with my situation and decide truly what direction I was going in.

I slowly recuperated my health, social life, and overall happiness. I cannot lie and state that this was the easiest thing to do. Actually, it was probably the hardest. I had to forgive, cry my tears, apologise, and continue.

It was a hard but it was beautiful. After falling in love with myself (which not enough people do) I decided to make my HIV status public to, well, everyone.

Only about 10 people knew my status before I went public. Disclosing is not something I take lightly—once you do, you cannot undo.

I filmed a video and posted it on YouTube and shared it; you can watch it below:

When I clicked ‘share’ on this video I said a prayer, closed my eyes, and smiled, with no regret and doubt in my mind.

The amount of support I have received has been outstanding and inspiring. I found my voice and passion for what I want to do.

Using my sass, my passion, my humour, and most importantly my voice. I’ve chosen to live, to love, to forgive, to educate, to empower, to motivate, to survive this crazy world in the fullest way.

I’ve been fortunate to find platforms through community support groups, friends, family, and people all over the world willing to help me share my story.

I’m now studying broadcast journalism and taking my skills within the Greater Toronto Area to advocate, educate, and inspire those willing to listen.

Now that I have spoken up, I cannot shut up!

I wish I could tell you exactly who I am, what I’m about, and where I’m headed. However, these are questions I still find myself asking and for first time, in a long time, I’m excited to find out!

The moment I decided to let go of what was hurting my soul all these possibilities and opportunities came to light. Now, the sky is the limit.

Since I can’t change my past, I’m going to make damn sure I can shape my future.