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When your best freind is HIV-positive
By Athena Lyn Duff

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When Jaz is sick, it's hard to be around her. She's moody, coughs a lot, and looks like she is about to keel over, and die. But when she's healthy we have a lot of fun together. We hang around at the Coffee Zone, or on the sidewalk, coloring in coloring books and talking. One time we were hanging out she mentioned that her eighteenth birthday was coming up. She said she was hoping to sleep through it. I asked her if it would be alright if I bought her a present. Maybe, she said-she hadn't gotten a present in a long time.

"What did you do for your last birthday last year?"

"I didn't notice it until it was over."

"The year before that?"

"I got really f-----d up"

" And what about when you turned fifteen?"

"they gave me a bottle of Jack Daniels."

I didn't ask who "they" were; Somehow I didn't want to hear that it was her parents.

Jaz is really weird about money. If she gets a hold of $40, she'll loan 20 to some junkie who'll never pay her back, $5 will go to the guest fee at a hotel for the night, then she'll buy you lunch, get her self a mango because she's never had one before, then blow the rest on cotton balls and hair dye at Walgreens because she "doesn't like to have money."

I could see Jaz doing really good things with her life. Her keen sense of justice, her creativity, make me think she's the kind of person that could change the world. But I could see her dying on the streets because nobodyever took care of her, so she never learned how to take care of herself.

This article ran in an issue of my newspaper flashpointAthena Lyn Duff was formerly homeless now works for YO ( Youth outlook ) a news paper by and about teenagers published by pacific News Service.

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HIV, AIDS, homelessness, Youth, children