The Positive Side

Summer 2011 

Jane Wallis (Spring 2003)

Age: 52
Gananoque, Ontario
Bus driver for special-needs school
Diagnosed with HIV in 1990
CD4 count: 650
Viral load: undetectable

“My 20-year-old virus and I are living peacefully and quietly with a loving husband and supportive family and friends.”

How would you describe your health?
Above average to excellent, though cholesterol concerns have arisen.

Are you experiencing any specific issues around HIV or your treatment?

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?
Pregnancy safety — I applaud HIV-positive women who choose to become a mom, being able to make an informed decision — and safer-sex negotiation. Also, the huge loss of an organization that was geared specifically to HIV-positive women: Voices of Positive Women. This means a loss of connection to other HIV-positive women, loss of peer support, loss of programs and loss of a voice for HIV-positive women at conferences and other venues. There are numerous strong HIV-positive women across this province because of Voices, through the support, nurturing, relationship building, information sharing and networking it offered. I feel that the opportunity for newly diagnosed women in Ontario to grow and learn from each other and get involved is now lost, or at least diminished. In the next couple of years, I’d like to see a conference or gathering organized by HIV-positive women for HIV-positive women, in the tradition of Voices of Positive Women.

What has changed for you personally?
Loss — of friends and of my dog at Thanksgiving — and marriage.

I met Rex in December 2002 at a karaoke night at our local Legion and we were married the next summer on a boat. (My maid of honour and I wore blues and greens, the colours of the sea.) Rex is a charming English gentleman, older than I am, and retired from the Canadian government. Rex and I are friends, we laugh frequently, and any squabbles are about silly things, like which way the toilet paper goes on the roll or the proper way to fold towels. Here it is, almost eight years later, and we remain a mixed-status couple.

In one word, describe this moment in AIDS.
Still fighting. Things have come a long way since my diagnosis 20 years ago, but I still long for non-judgment, non-discrimination, access (to medical care, information, connectedness, resources) and support.

In 10 years…
I take life day to day, but it would be great to be retired, having won a lottery, and sipping piña coladas somewhere in the sunshine for the winter and travelling throughout Canada in the summer.

What song is the soundtrack of your life?
There are far too many songs to pick just one. Bits and pieces of many songs fit but do not capture the essence of Jane.