“My name is Ashley Rose. I'm 21 years old and a fourth-year student majoring in theatre at York University, specializing in Devised Theatre. I like to sing, dance, and I come from a very large family. I like to spread positivity and want to use my own story to educate people, particularly youth, about the reality of HIV/AIDS.”
At six months of age, Ashley Rose was given weeks to live. Waking from a coma and diagnosed with AIDS contracted from her mother at birth, Ashley had no immune system and a disease that was consuming her tiny three pound body.
At that time, Kari Murphy received a call from Children’s Aid Society (CAS). After making 200 calls, CAS was desperately trying to find someone who would provide palliative care for a tiny baby who had weeks left. Kari agreed and brought Ashley home.
She was frail, fed through a feeding tube and her skin was so thin, her veins could be mapped. Ashley was the sixth child in the Murphy’s care, and four of these children were non-biological children with disabilities. Kari recounts bringing Ashley home and a calm coming over the baby in her arms.
Against the odds, Ashley started to get better. Through her medical regimen - pills and liquids that tasted like kerosene - and the love of her new family, Ashley got stronger. Her immune system began to recover, and her viral load began to decrease.
“I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for the medications developed through innovative HIV research.”
Today, Ashley is a bubbly 21-year old young woman and one of ten children adopted or fostered by the Murphy's. Her daily drug regime is keeping her healthy, and her HIV is undetectable. There are side effects that she lives with every day – short term memory loss and hair loss being a few. Monthly doctors visits are just part of her life as someone growing up with HIV.
“Stigma is still an issue. Youth need more information. But the medications are easier to take and work well. Today, I am healthy and undetectable.”
Ashley lives openly with her HIV status and is boldly speaking out about the stigma associated with living with HIV. She is inspiring audiences globally as she speaks about her past, and changes the conversation around HIV and AIDS.
Ashley hopes for a future that includes finding a cure for HIV and AIDS to make an AIDS-free world for the next generation. Ashley is a National Youth Ambassador for CANFAR and a number of other AIDS organizations. She has spoken at the United Nations AIDS gala in Geneva, Switzerland and to the General Assembly in New York.
“HIV/AIDS is not over. It's still a very serious health issue and education is the key to ending AIDS. World AIDS Day is a time to remember those we've lost, continue to lose, and salute those who fight alongside us.”