In My Words: Jaimie Kahale

This HIV-positive Kaneohe woman works for the nonprofit Life Foundation, telling her story, counseling clients and training educators.

Photo: Alex Viarnes

This month, it will be 18 years living with this disease. I was 26 when I was diagnosed. One of the questions that comes up a lot is, “Was I angry?” I wasn’t angry. I didn’t get angry until much later. That first year, I got myself informed. I knew I had a lot of risks. I was in recovery from drugs and alcohol, and I knew that was a link to getting HIV, so I started speaking to small groups of women in treatment, sharing my experiences. Then I started talking to at-risk youth. I could relate to them. I remember what it was like, thinking I was cool, getting high, going to clubs, dating older men.

Sometimes it’s easier to talk about things than other times, depending on what is going on in my own personal life, my health. It’s really difficult to watch another positive woman struggle with this disease—it’s like looking in the mirror. If they’re newly diagnosed, it’s about getting them to a place of peace where they have HIV and this is not the end all, be all.

Our whole theme is “Know your status.” I believe that knowing my status early on is one of the reasons I am still alive today. I was able to change behaviors. Rethink my priorities. Make a decision whether I wanted to live to live, or live to die.

[Working at Life Foundation] has given me huge purpose in my life. Working with the positive women, it’s not what they ask me, it’s what they get to see. They see me continuing on. They see me here.