Paige Rawl, 18, Reveals Stigma of Having HIV as a Teen

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A teen who was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 12 has come forward about the stigma of the disease and the bullying she has encountered throughout school.

Paige Rawl, from Indianapolis, Ind., contracted HIV from her mother at birth. 

When she found out she had it in sixth grade, she told a best friend about her situation. But that best friend soon spread the news and everyone at school knew.

She said she was targeted by bullies, and her soccer coach even joked that she would score more goals because opposition would be scared to touch her.

"I had a note left on my lockers saying, 'no AIDS at this school,'" she recalled. "And I went from having tons of friends to hardly having any."

In eighth grade, having had enough, she decided to be home schooled. But she found that not being social was depressing, and decided to enroll in a different school.

After that, things started looking up. At that school, she found support from her peers and teachers. It was that support that prompted her to speak out about her story.

She is now determined to fight the negativity that surrounds HIV and AIDS, and said it comes from "lack of education and just the ignorance of people."

Rawl has traveled across the country talking about her condition, and became the youngest educator at age 14 through the American Red Cross.

"I tell people, 'HIV does not define who I am,'" she said. "There is no certain face to HIV. This is the type of disease that doesn't discriminate."

Rawl said up next is a book, and going to college at Ball State University to study molecular biology. She said she plans on being an HIV and AIDS drug researcher.

Sources: Daily Mail, Indy Star