Social media model and influencer Gena Tew, who has more than 650,000 followers on TikTok recently revealed that she became severely sick and almost died because she was unaware she had AIDS for almost the last ten years.
Recently, the 27-year-old model, who has been linked to a number of different celebrities, has been documenting her health struggles in a series of social media posts since going public with her diagnosis. This summer, she took to TikTok to tell her followers how she discovered she contracted AIDS.
“Everyone keeps asking how I got AIDS. I didn’t know I had AIDS. I just got sick one day, started fainting, fevers, then I got really weak. I was going to the doctor and no one knew what was wrong. They just kept assuming cancer, cervical cancer, lesions, and then I had some doctor say ‘no you’re perfectly fine, there’s nothing wrong with you.’”
“Eventually a doctor was like ‘did you know you have AIDS?’,” continued Gena. “And I’m like ‘no!’ because I wasn’t getting checked like I should have, as much as I was supposed to, so I didn’t know. I lost a lot of weight ‘cause I was in the hospital. I don’t know what happened. From losing all that weight, I lost mobility in my legs so I can’t walk or stand right now but I do my therapy every day and I do take my pills every day like I’m supposed to. I take five pills a day.”
“No I don’t know who gave it to me so, you know, I just found out recently. They said if I didn’t show up when I did I would’ve died because my blood count was so low. I was getting blood bags, they was taking bone samples, they were doing a lot because I was so weak, still so weak. I think I have wasting syndrome. I’m not anorexic on purpose, but yeah I hope that answered a bunch of you guys’ questions.”
Can You Have HIV for Years and Not Know It?
Gena mentioned that she probably has had HIV for 10 years and not know it. How is that possible?
Movies would have you believe that once you get HIV, you start seeing symptoms right away. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You can’t rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV.
A disease like HIV has different stages and can be in your body for years and even decades before symptoms may start to manifest.
Below are the three stages of HIV and some of the symptoms people may experience.
Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness. This is the body’s natural response to HIV infection.
Flu-like symptoms can include:
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV.
Stage 2: Clinical Latency
In this stage, the virus still multiplies, but at very low levels. People in this stage may not feel sick or have any symptoms. This stage is also called chronic HIV infection.
Without HIV treatment, people can stay in this stage for 10 or 15 years, like Gena. Even though some move through this stage faster.
If you take HIV medicine exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you can live and long and healthy life and will not transmit HIV to your HIV-negative partners through sex.
But if your viral load is detectable, you can transmit HIV during this stage, even when you have no symptoms. It’s important to see your health care provider regularly to get your viral load checked.
Stage 3: AIDS
If you have HIV and you are not on HIV treatment, eventually the virus will weaken your body’s immune system and you will progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
This is the late stage of HIV infection.
Symptoms of AIDS can include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
- Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
- Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders
Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information so you can take steps to keep yourself and your partner(s) health
Gena is experiencing a wide array AIDS-related complications, including AIDS-related blindness, weeks after undergoing surgery to restore her sight.
In one TikTok video clip, which was shared and has been viewed more than 13 million times, the social media star showed herself struggling to get up from her bed as her weight plummeted and muscle atrophy weakened her legs and caused significant sight loss.
Tew also used the hashtag “#CMV,” in an apparent reference to cytomegalovirus retinitis, which is known to be