At the tender age of 14, Dayshal Dix already has a long story to tell.
She’s HIV positive. Has been since the day she was born.
Dayshal has known about the HIV since she was a toddler, although she didn’t understand what the three letters meant. She knew only that she had gotten it from her mother.
Some days, the burden of knowledge weighs too heavy, as on one recent day when she was asked about her life with HIV.
“I don’t want to talk about HIV today,” she said. “I’m tired of talking about HIV.”
In South Carolina, the number of people like Dayshal — children born with HIV — has dropped steadily, marking one of the most successful battles against HIV/AIDS. The year Dayshal was born, 1994, South Carolina recorded 15 babies born with HIV. In 2007, only two babies in S.C. were born HIV positive.
Dayshal has told her friends she is HIV positive. Most reacted well: They didn’t shy away from her.
But on many days she can’t be around them anyway. Because her compromised immune system sometimes can’t handle all the germs at school, Dayshal must be home-schooled.
Dayshal takes daily doses of three medicines: Epivir, Zerit and a third whose name she cannot remember.
She lives with Wilhelmina Dixon, the grandmother who adopted her.
When she feels well, Dayshal travels from Williston with her grandmother and her mother, Toni, to talk to young people around the state.
“Standing in front of people I don’t know is easier” than talking to friends about HIV, Dayshal says. “I let them know that you can get HIV by not using a condom, or you can be born with it, like me.”
Sometimes she writes essays about her life, and reads them aloud. Sometimes those essays make her grandmother cry.
At other times, Dayshal looks beyond tears to her dreams.
She wants to be a hairdresser. Or maybe a math teacher or lawyer.
The same as any other 14-year-old girl.