Judith Shaw’s story is both painful and extraordinary. She has been living with HIV for 20 years, and tells her story openly, so that others can learn a lesson of education, protection and forgiveness. Back in 1992, Judith’s boyfriend and father of her daughter gave her some news that would change her life.
He said, “I need to talk to you. I just want you to know, I have what Magic Johnson has.”
She responded by saying, “What does Magic Johnson have?”
He replied: ‘He has AIDS.'”
Shaw discusses her story in Helen Whitney’s film “Forgiveness: A Time to Love and A Time to Hate.”
Shaw says that although the pain was agonizing, it was her capacity to forgive that allowed her to keep on living.
“For me, If I hadn’t forgiven I would be out there, somewhere, in that world, abusing myself, I would die,” she said.
Shaw came from a family that was cursed with alcoholism. She was also molested by an uncle at the age of seven. Years later, she was infected with HIV by her boyfriend, so her journey has been a difficult one.
“I was so angry, I was so scared,” said Shaw. “I wanted to die, but before I died, I wanted to kill Joe. I went to his door, with the gun behind my back, rang the door bell, and he came to door and, honest to God, I saw my daughter’s face.”
Shaw says that, for years after her diagnosis, she spent her time abusing drugs and harming herself. But eventually, she learned to let go of her self-hate and focus on forgiving herself and those who’ve harmed her.
“Once I was able to forgive me, that freed me up to forgive everybody else. And it took a long time…to get to where I am. I forgave my uncle, because not to forgive him gives him power — and Joe for infecting me with HIV. I don’t want to live with that because I don’t want to be a bitter old woman. I want to grow old gracefully. And that’s what I intend on doing. And I am loving life. I just got married, I don’t have time to be bitter.”
Shaw is now a receptionist at the Virology Institute in Baltimore. She says that she is healthy and living with HIV. Her story is one for everyone to hear on World AIDS Day and to understand the importance of being thoughtful about our choices.