“After they told me, I went to my apartment and I sat down in my big comfy chair, pulled down all the shades and closed the curtains. I just wanted to be in darkness,” said Gardner.
Then Gardner recalls hearing a knock on the door, it was from her daughter. She wanted Gardner to watch her grandchildren while she went shopping.
“She knew I was trying to be depressed,” said Gardner “ but I had to switch to granny mode… What do you tell 3-year-old twins”?
It’s been five years since Gardner was diagnosed. Gardner said she went to get tested after hearing rumors of her boyfriend being sexually active with other people.
As she continues her battle with HIV, she also continues to spread awareness of her virus to Northwest Georgia residents.
Monday night at St Luke A.M.E. church in downtown Cartersville, Gardner along with regional resident Marie Bonner shared their experiences with HIV and AIDS for National HIV Testing day, sponsored by the Northwest Georgia AIDS Alliance.
“It takes such bravery to stand up and speak,” said Lola Thomas executive director of Northwest Georgia AIDS Alliance, “They do it because they are concerned about someone else.”
The alliance offered free HIV/AIDS testing from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and informed residents about the virus and how to use protection properly.
“If we don’t take a stand, this is never going to end,” said Gardner.
Marie Bonner confronted the stigma associated with the virus by addressing the discrimination she faced with her son, who died from AIDS in 2002.
Upon returning to work after his death Bonner found no comfort, co-workers wouldn’t even sit next to her.
“She got up and moved. I went into the office and was crying… The lady said ‘why are you crying for’ and I said ‘in the cafeteria this woman just got up and moved away from me,’” said Bonner.
The lady then told Bonner the reason the woman move away from her was because her son passed away with AIDS.
Bonner quit her job soon after and said she was happy with this decision.
Her son, Todd, first opened up to Marie about his condition in 1999 after Marie received a phone call from his work to come pick him up because he was unable to perform his duties.
“We were driving him home, and my husband said ‘okay son, its time to talk,’ then Todd said ‘I’m dying,’ we said okay, what are we going to do,” said Marie.
This wasn’t the first time Marie had to pick her son up from work and after previous trips to the emergency room her suspicions were confirmed (but he had already told her?).
The Bonners then made their son an appointment with a doctor and with Northwest Georgia Aids Alliance.
The AIDS Alliance offers support to persons living with HIV/AIDS, and prevention services such as free HIV testing and educational classes. It is also the closet AIDS Alliance to Gordon County residents.
“Most HIV is spread because people don’t know they have it,” said Annie Carter, director of HIV testing and prevention services, “The earlier you get diagnose the better off you are.”
For more information about the AIDS Alliance, call 770-606-0953 or visit them at 775 North Avenue, Suite E in Cartersville