The Positive Side

Summer 2011 

Brigitte Charbonneau (Spring 2003)

Age: 64
“I gave up volunteering last year to look after myself and I’m thinking of returning in the near future.”
Living with HIV since 1994
CD4 count: 480
Viral load: not sure

“I mentor others in their time of need.”

How would you describe your health?
Since becoming positive, I have developed asthma, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. I’m having a hard time with my diabetes and bouts of depression. After 16 years with this virus, at times I am still in denial … until it’s time to take those awful drugs that can leave you with some bad side effects.

Since you were on the cover of our women’s issue back in 2003, what would you say has changed for women living with HIV in Canada?
I think that most of the women I know have become strong advocates for others and more so for themselves. I have learned to speak up about my health and other issues I believe in.

What has changed for you personally?
I became a grandmother to four more — two from my daughter and two from my son. I now have eight grandchildren!

The hardest part of my life is the deaths of so many good friends, and they seem to come so close together. The grieving never seems to stop. This year I lost my mother in July; the next day, a good friend; and two weeks after that, two more friends — and I know that it will continue. I don’t know how or when the grieving will get easier for me.

In one word, describe this moment in AIDS.
Frustrating, as there won’t be a cure in my lifetime.

In 10 years…
I’ll have more wrinkles and lots more grey hair, but I’ll be happy to have my partner at my side and both of my children with their families.

What song is the soundtrack of your life?
“We Are Family” by Sister Sledge and “I Believe” by R. Kelly.