Maternal Grace

HIV Advocate Lady Queen Lane reflects on Life and Motherhood While Encouraging Other Women to Take Charge of Their Health this National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Sean Black

A child survivor of the 1980s’ instances of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Quintara Lady Queen Lane is living a rich and purposeful life; unlike most infants of her generation who were sadly born with the virus and rarely saw a second birthday. Today, she is single-handedly raising two adorable kids of her own, ages six and seven while looking forward to celebrating her 35th birthday this Fall.

It has been over a decade since we first met at an outreach event where she was handing out literature and condoms and shouting “street scares” to passersby both on-foot and in cars at one of Miami’s busiest traffic intersections. We clicked instantly and have stayed in touch. She is now one of the most important women in my life.

Raised in Miami by her maternal grandmother Miss Virginia, a healthcare technician, Quintara was born the middle girl of three daughters and the only one to acquire HIV. Worrisome glands prompted early action sparing her baby sister, Nesha, who she lovingly refers to as her “Irish twin” because they were born eleven months apart. Quintara, at nearly one wasn’t as fortunate. Keke, her older sister was born before their mother had seroconverted. The three girls lost their mother when Quintara was only nine and Miss Virginia lost one of her daughters. Quintara’s journey has been both heartbreaking and heroic. Having beat incredible odds, Quintara is alive today because of sheer determination and the tireless efforts of women.

Recent data provided by UNAIDS, reports that there are approximately 20.1 million girls and women around the world living with HIV: more than half of the total 38 million people comprising this vulnerable, key population. The Organization’s mission is to end AIDS by 2030 which they say requires addressing girls’ and women’s diverse roles by putting them at the center of the response.

Quintara has been putting herself out in the public eye for years hoping to elicit and further this response; ever since she found the courage to speak openly about being born with HIV, shortly after her mother’s passing in 1995. She has been doing outreach not only for women and girls but for all communities impacted by HIV/AIDS. She’s dedicated herself and her time to numerous organizations and projects such as Treasure the Children, Campaign to End AIDS, AIDS Awareness Poets, and the RCP Movement (Respect Yourself Check Yourself Protect Yourself) founded by Donovan Thomas who organized the ‘street scare’ where we first met. Thomas believed in the value of offering hard-hitting ways to talk about the seriousness of HIV in at-risk communities. Quintara has done testing for AIDS Response Effort in Northern Virginia where she now lives as well as AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) both in Florida and more recently in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area.

She has been recognized as an ambassador of the University of Miami’s, Division of Pediatrics for Youth with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and for the Does HIV Look like Me? Campaign. She has served on numerous boards and is an active member with many speaker’s bureaus where she shares her story in the hopes of educating students, parents and staff within public and private schools about HIV. She has been featured in magazines and on major television and radio networks to include MTV, PBS2, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS News, WEDR Cox radio (FM 99JAMZ) and WMBM AM 1490.

She is currently working on furthering her own foundation with the mission of offering daily inspiration to other women like herself and empowering girls, women and mothers through social media and other impactful platforms.

Despite these recent, troubling times when I interview her for this article, she humbly offers nothing but praise for the blessings in her life and reminds me to do the same.

SB: What does National Woman and Girls HIV Awareness Day mean to you?

QLL: “National woman and girls HIV awareness is a day of celebration. As a woman born with HIV, I stand with other women and girls who have tested positive and encourage those who haven’t to get tested and urgently address their own healthcare needs.

In the early days of HIV/AIDS, women were largely overlooked because they were not considered high risk for HIV infection. I remember hearing of cases where physicians turned women away for testing if they were married, in a stable relationship or had only one sex partner. We failed to acknowledge all of the high-risk factors at the time such as sex outside of marriage or committed relationships like men who were having sex with men. It was labeled “a gay disease” while so many woman and girls contracted HIV. Today, our most important calling should be to come together and rewrite the narrative, be visible and abolish labels so that we can celebrate together as one family.”

SB: How have you stayed strong during this time of COVID19?

QLL: “My childhood was not normal, I watched my mother as well as other children like myself get sick, their bodies deteriorate and die in hospital beds. You go from being depressed, to scared to numb because you realize that most likely you were next. As someone who survived these odds before, I approached this season of COVID19 with a stronger belief in the God that I serve, and I didn’t let myself fall prey to loneliness or fear. I would not let this season pull me backwards. Instead, I became more creative and wiser with my time. While protecting myself and my family in quarantine, I got to devote myself to my two adventurous children and my finances as well.

I tune in daily, to spiritual inspiration whether online, through a self-help app or over an audio book. Additionally, I recently got to participate in a discussion hosted by the International Community of Women Living with HIV titled Healing Together: Love & Relationships where “lovely queens” were able to join together to discuss topics around navigating sex, love, and relationships as women living with HIV. I carve out time and invest in myself as well.

SB: What is your single, most important piece of information you could offer other women today?

QLL: “Accept rejection as a blessing.”

SB: What is the message you want to leave with other HIV-positive women who are contemplating having children today?

 QLL: “It’s possible. “Today, we can mother our own healthy, HIV-negative children.”

I recall being told that I would never have children. When I was 27, I took a pregnancy test which revealed that I was indeed pregnant. I wasn’t in the best relationship at that time and realized I would probably have to face being a single mother. I am not going to lie. It has been hard. I have had to pray and seek out the proper help and resources. I take the advice of doctors who I trust and stay in contact with regularly. I have a wonderful Church family and believe any woman who wishes to, regardless of her status, can become the greatest mother in the world.”

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