It's five in the morning and Devondia Roseborough is waking up, lying in bed and getting her thoughts together to face the day ahead. She isn't trying to bring yesterday's issues into her new morning. Lessons are learned, and it's about time for her to be the teacher.
Her two teenaged daughters will be up soon. And for most mothers, that means a lot of screaming and threatening to beat the hell out of the last person to get out of the bed and get on the school bus. But this is a day that most people didn't think Devondia would face after December 9, 2003.
That's the day she was diagnosed with AIDS.
Four years later, Devondia isn't a statistic. She doesn't wallow in self-pity, although she does have moments when she thinks about how she contracted the disease and blames her father for not being there, leading her to look for love in all the wrong places.
She doesn't have long to think because it's about time for her youngest daughter to get up. Devondia rises from bed at about 5:15 a.m. In about 45 minutes, her daughter's bus will arrive.
She walks with her daughter to the corner to catch the bus after they've gotten dressed. The mother and daughter talk about life and Devondia tries to impart what she didn't hear at that age -- real talk and real love.
Though she's a confident 36-year-old now, Devondia bears scars that have healed over time. But her goal as a mother is to make sure her daughters grow up safe and grow up able to tell her any and everything going on in their lives. That's why their trips to the bus stop are so special.
By the time her youngest daughter is on the bus and heading for school, it's time for Devonida to do it all over again with her oldest daughter.
A second bus is set to arrive at 6:30 a.m. And until the bus shows up, Devondia and her older daughter, who is in high school, stand on the porch and talk.
"I do not sugarcoat anything with my kids," she says.
Once the bus gets there, Devondia heads inside the house and begins cleaning up. That is, after she takes her medicine.
"I only take three pills," she says. "There was a time when I was taking 23 pills. I've come all the way down. Then I try to get some exercise. I might take a walk with one of my neighbors. We walk around the neighborhood about four times, and that's a good walk."
Devondia has a dog that she takes along with her on her walks. And the floppy-eared pooch lets out a bark when anyone walks up to the house. Take it as a warning or an alert. Devondia smiles and heads inside; she has work to do -- and possibly lives to save.
Her home in West Charlotte is spotless. The plush carpet is vacuumed to perfection, and pictures of her daughters hang on the walls along with an article written about Devondia. There isn't a dust bunny in sight.
After cleaning up, Devondia, who is on disability and doesn't hold down a full-time job, heads for her computer. She's working on her memoirs, Put It On Paper, and she also spends time as an AIDS activist, talking to churches, colleges and community groups that call her.
While on the computer, she updates her Web site, www.rasberrirose.org, which provides information about her nonprofit organization that reaches out to girls between the ages of 10 and 18. At those ages, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, girls account for half of the new HIV infections.
Devondia's long-term goal for her foundation is to have after-school programs for girls in the at-risk age range.
"Between the hours of 3 [p.m.] and 7 [p.m.] is that idle time when parents are at work and they have too much time on their hands," she says. With all this free time, she believes that it's easy for girls to succumb to the pressure of having sex, sometimes-unprotected sex, that puts them at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease like HIV.
For Devondia, being alive is a blessing. Rewind back to 2003 when she was in the hospital. At first, a doctor told her that she had HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS. Then another doctor told her that she had AIDS and a T-Cell count of 19.
A normal T-Cell count for someone infected with HIV is above 500. For a non-infected person, the normal T-Cell count is between 700 and 1000. When the T-Cell count drops below 200, a person is classified as having AIDS, according to an article written by registered nurse Mark Cichocki, which was published on About.com.
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