Jazz found out she was HIV-positive when her daughter was born in 1990. Luckily, she did not transmit the virus to her baby, but the diagnosis threw her own life off the rails. She began using illicit drugs and living rough—“being around the wrong crowd of people,” as she puts it. Three years after her diagnosis, she was convicted for conspiracy to sell cocaine. She spent close to eight years in prison.
In hindsight, Jazz (who requested that Nature Medicine use this pseudonym) says she started acting recklessly because she assumed she had little time left to live. “I had a lot of friends who had [HIV], and I watched their struggle dealing with it and their passing away from it,” she says. “It really scared me, so I just abused myself.” As the years ticked by, though, Jazz never got sick the way many of her acquaintances did.