Corey was just 17 when he got HIV from his boyfriend. He didn’t know much about HIV at the time, just the usual stereotypes. And the news nearly broke him. Explaining his new status to his family hadn’t gone well—so how was he going to tell his best friend, Tianna?
They’d been friends for years, ever since he’d moved to Milwaukee with his grandmother as a kid. Would she cry? Freak out? Cut him out of her life? He couldn’t imagine what his funny, fiercely intelligent friend would do…but he was nervous.
“I was sure I was going to lose her,” Corey remembers. “But she didn’t cry when I told her about my status.” Instead, Tianna listened quietly while Corey explained his new status. And then she shrugged. “She just didn’t think it was a big deal.”
For Tianna, no other response made sense. “He’s always going to be my Corey.”
We can get through anything together.
That was junior year. And since then, Tianna’s support has never wavered—even when other people have questioned their friendship. Like the boyfriend who told Tianna she needed to stop hanging out with Corey if she didn’t want to “catch” HIV. “You’re being ignorant,” she told her boyfriend firmly, before launching into an explanation of all the ways HIV can and can’t be shared.
That kind of rock-solid support has made Tianna more than Corey’s best friend; she’s the family he’s chosen for himself. And that choice has helped Corey stay strong and stick with treatment. He’s been undetectable for the last seven years, and Tianna's been by his side through it all—including new meds, career changes and relationships that ended because of stigma.
“When he’s at his weakest moments, I’m there,” says Tianna. “If you want to cry, we can cry together... We can go have fun. We can overcome anything. We can get through anything together.”
“She’s the balance to my life,” says Corey. “We have a bond and it’s unbreakable.”