My HIV Story
Story and Recording by Mallery Jenna Robinson
Hi! My name is Mallery Jenna Robinson. My pronouns are she/her/hers, I identify as an AfraCaribbean Trans woman who has been empowered in her truth for 16 years as a trans woman and over 10 years as a trans woman living with undetectable HIV.
On May 2, 2011, I was living in Montgomery, Alabama, a junior in college and in a monogamous romantic and sexual relationship with a cisgendered male when I became violently ill and collapsed while working as a server at a local restaurant. I was rushed to the emergency room, where a panel of tests were run including blood work.
I received a phone call from the Montgomery County Health Department on May 21, 2011 to come into the health department to receive an update regarding my recent blood work. The medical provider walked inside the door to the office where I was waiting anxiously, and informed me I was HIV positive. He then referred me to the Copeland Care Clinic, also known as The Montgomery AIDS Outreach, where I would be linked into care at the Ryan White Program to receive HIV care and management.
I was completely nervous and overwhelmed as a then 21-year-old Black trans woman who was working on my Double Bachelor’s in Biology and History, but nonetheless I was determined to not let this diagnosis deter me from living my best life. I arrived at the Copeland Care Clinic and received training on best practices to ensure I would become and remain undetectable. I met my amazing medical provider at the time, Dr. B, and he also recognized that I had no access to hormone replacement therapy, so he also prescribed that along with my anti-retroviral medication.
Despite my medical diagnosis, I was tenacious and determined to continue to live an amazing life and not let HIV define my existence. I was diligent about taking my medication and, as a result, I went from lab work twice a month to lab work once every six months.
I went on to graduate with my double Bachelor’s in biology and history in May 2014. I began teaching as a middle school science and history teacher in Duval County, Florida from August 2014 until June 2019. I traveled to Paris, France and London, England, and finally worked up the gumption to move to Los Angeles, California. After moving to Los Angeles, I began receiving medical care at the Los Angeles LGBT Center under Dr. V.
Since moving to Los Angeles, I have become a transgender and HIV healthcare advocate, raising awareness to promote accessibility, visibility, and equity for all trans identities. I work to destigmatize HIV by professionally speaking about my own journey surrounding HIV as a Black trans woman. I’m a member of the City of West Hollywood’s Transgender Advisory Board, and work as Engagement Specialist and Service Navigator for The Transgender Health Department at the LGBT Center of Long Beach up until 2021. I now work as the Community Advisory Board coordinator for “We Can Stop STDs LA” with Coachman Moore & Associates.
I participate in outreach efforts with other community leaders and partners to ensure that trans women of color and all trans identities in our community are being tested, and getting linked to care and remaining in care. Far too often, individuals hear the letters H-I-V and instantly think of it as a death sentence, but it is not. You can successfully live with HIV as long as you are willing to take your medicines and practice other health and wellness strategies to ensure you are maintaining an undetectable status.
As a Black trans woman who has been living with HIV for over 10 years, I just want to say it is okay to be nervous and overwhelmed. But dig deep and find that determination and tenacity to survive and thrive, so you, too, can motivate and inspire others to stay undetectable by staying in care. Also, if you’re negative, PrEP and PeP services are also available, along with regular HIV testing.