Most of the women take a complex cocktail of medication every day, which can cause lasting side effects. Regan estimates that she's taken 48,000 pills since she was diagnosed in 1996. In 2003, Yvette was taking 23 pills a day, but now her daily regimen is down to seven. Marvelyn continues to take nine "horse pills" every day.
Medical advances have simplified the treatment of many HIV/AIDS patients, but some say there has been little advancement in the way people treat HIV-positive men and women. "The stigma is the worst part," Regan says. "I couldn't even get care sometimes because I would go to get blood work at my local hospital ... the nurse would come in and say, 'I'm not going to take this woman's blood. She's HIV positive.'"
The public's perception of HIV-positive women also makes dating very difficult. Chelsea says she always tries to tell men that she has HIV on the first date. "When I told people, like guys, their reactions were, like, 'Oh, God, where's the closest exit? Let me get out of here as fast as I can,'" she says.
Marvelyn says some men still try to convince her to have unprotected sex, but she is adamant about using condoms. Infected people run the risk of reinfecting themselves with a different strain of HIV if they have unprotected sex. Because the virus mutates so rapidly, these new strains could be resistant to the medications they're currently taking.