Courtesy Katja Heinemann
Aurora Photos

Excerpted from "A Journey of Hope: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Unconditional Love" by Neil Willenson and the children of Camp Heartland, a community of support for young people affected by HIV.

Abacovir... Bactrim.. Epivir... Videx... Motrin... Viracept. And I take Tylenol, and that’s it. No liquids! Oh, and I take sleeping pills.

I take ‘em two at a time.

Twice a day, I take the same amount at night, too – sometime.

Sometime I don’t.  Want me to tell you my secret? I hate taking medicine. Because it’s not fun.  Taking it every day!

At home sometimes I miss it. Sometime…I get in trouble if I lie to (my room) and tell her I take it, but if I just tell her that I had missed, she won’t get me in trouble.  She’ll tell me: start back on it. I don’t miss all the time, I miss the night and take the morning.  I don’t know why, ‘cause it just feels like I take ‘em and take ‘em, thousands of pills every day.

My mom takes pills, but it’s not for the same reason, she takes her vitamins. She takes hers every day, she don’t miss not a day, she’s just gulp, gulp….

I haven’t been taking these for a very long time. I have been taking these for a year, but I have other meds I’ve been taking. I have been taking ‘em for at least…all my life. I have been changing changin’, changin’, changing, because other medicines don’t work for me.

They make my viral load go low, real low, and my T-cells go high, real high.

And the doctor says that’s good. Then they say mine is undetectable. That means they can’t find the virus in me. That’s it.

They were trying to get me one of them things (a gastro-tube) – I said uh-uh.

They said they wanna put one in my stomach, I said uh-uh. I said: You is not touching my stomach! My momma said it too. ‘Cause I’m gaining weight on my own.

My cousins are like 10 times bigger than me, and they ain’t nothing but 4, 5 years old. We took a picture in Myrtle Beach… I looked so skinny. I had a bathing suit on, I looked so skinny and taut, compared to them two. I was real skinny. And they all catching up with me, with my weight. I’m supposed to be the one that’s in my hundreds. But my cousin, he drank my (booster) juices. That boy’s getting big …

Click here to learn more about Camp Heartland.Click here to see more of Katya Heinemann's photography.

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