Scroll To Top
Daily Dose

Finding Love Again After a Husband Dies of AIDS Complications

Finding Love Again After a Husband Dies of AIDS Complications


Shawndell Finney discovered she had HIV two weeks after her husband was hospitalized. Her life has been a journey ever since.

When her husband, Roger, collapsed in 2000, Shawndell Finney had no idea what a life changer it would be. A mere 28 days later, her beloved Roger was in a hospital, diagnosed with AIDS and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, which is one of the AIDS-defining illnesses among people with HIV.

“Then they took me back and explained to us what would happen next. They told us he had AIDS/PML and I had to be tested for HIV,” she recalls. “At that time both my daughters were with us and very tired and scared, and they asked me to walk with an adviser/nurse to the children’s hospital to test them. I had to wait two long weeks for my results — and for my kids’.”

Finney was HIV-positive. Her daughters were not. She started her own cleaning business to support the family while her oldest daughter helped her take care of her husband until the task got too much for them and Roger was placed in hospice. By then the stress of juggling caretaking, being the family breadwinner, and dealing with the needs of two growing school-age girls had taken a toll on Finney, and her own health declined.

“It affected my children a lot,” she says. “It was an emotional roller coaster. Elizabeth was close to her daddy — he taught her how to play soccer. And our younger daughter, Rusti, kind of rebelled. They blamed me.”

Eventually Roger was moved from hospice to nursing care, and though the couple divorced prior to his death, Finney says she still took care of him until his last days, even while juggling two jobs, the kids, and her own HIV. It took a toll on her health, but she coped by having a “close relationship in faith” and a strong support system including a mentor, her best friend, and her parents, who have since died. “I wish they were alive to see how far I’ve come,” she laments.

Finney also became a firm believer in staying on her medication regimen. “The doctors told me to take my meds and I will live, so that’s what I did,” she says. She switched medications once — one of her early meds gave her neuropathy in both legs — and she also battled a common comorbidity, hepatitis C. “I went on a clinical trial to be cured, and it worked,” she says.

Today this grandmother is healthy, happy, and about to be remarried — to the man of her dreams. She met Robert, her fiancé, on, a website for people living with sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

“As for meeting on the website, I personally didn’t want to meet a person that is negative,” Finney says about finding love online. Both poz, the two are also “an interracial couple and can show others [these relationships] work.”

Practically swooning when she talks about her new fiancé — and their wedding, set for Valentine’s Day, 2016 — Finney says that best of all, “he’s proud of my drive to inspire others to have no shame and stop the ignorance of this disease.”

She still thinks of Roger, though, who had battled AIDS complications for 14 years, never having recovered from his late start on antiretrovirals. Finney dreams of adding a panel for him to the AIDS Memorial Quilt someday, emblazoned with a red flannel shirt, a remembrance of the man who gave her so much, even if some of it came with unexpected baggage.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Diane Anderson-Minshall