My name is Tyranny but everybody calls me Tori. I found out I was HIV-positive on June 8, 2010, in Atlanta. I called my mother in D.C. and told her, and she was like, “Just get back here.” She called me again in ten minutes and said, “Your flight leaves Sunday at 7 a.m., and you have a doctor’s appointment on Monday.” So I moved back to D.C. five days later and went into treatment June 14. When I talk about my mother I always cry, because she is the biggest influence on me. I lived with her and she made sure I stayed on the treatment. Now my virus is undetectable.

Part of having HIV with me is having neuropathy, or nerve pain. Sometimes I can’t walk, and it feels like I’ve just stepped on nails. But having medication honestly helps a lot.

I really have nothing to complain about. I mean, I’m a lot healthier than I was two years ago. And like I always tell people, I got my HIV from being in love with someone and someone saying they loved me. We were together for three years. I didn’t use a condom because, you know, we’ve all been taught to use condoms, but nobody teaches condoms and love. But what I’ve learned is even though you’re in love with someone, you still need to use condoms. Even if you’ve been together for five years, you should still go and get tested. And that was one thing I didn’t do. That’s why I found out so late.

Now I work for Us Helping Us as an HIV advocate for young adults who are recently diagnosed or who need to get back into treatment. My doctor calls me and she’ll say, “I have a newly diagnosed person who’s scared of treatment.” So I go in with them for their first meeting and help them with any kind of support services. When all this was going on, my mother said, “You know what? This is your calling.”

I do feel as though my purpose is to show people that you can live with HIV, and to help people out with it. So that’s why I always have a smile on my face—because I found my purpose and I love what I do.