An unexpected HIV/AIDS diagnosis sent Tasha Renee Frost into a downward spiral, derailing a successful military career. Now at Broadway House, this transgender woman is determined to rebuild her life and make a positive impact on others.
A Newark resident, Tasha—who was born Elijah Frost Jr.—had joined the New Jersey Army National Guard at 17, hoping to receive a free college education and help support her family. At the time, the military operated under a policy commonly referred to as “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell,” when it came to gender. So while Tasha had started taking hormones to begin her transition from male to female, nothing was ever officially discussed.
Completing intensive training, she became a combat medic, earning the President’s Medal for outstanding service. After more than four years with the National Guard, Tasha decided to transfer to the U.S. Army, which required a new physical. A doctor delivered the shocking news that Tasha had HIV/AIDS, adding, “You’ll be dead in three years.”
Tasha wracked her brain to trace the source of the infection. Then, she learned that a neighbor who had raped her at age 14 had died of HIV/AIDS. Tasha went home to her mother, preparing in her mind to die. But her mother had other ideas: “My mom told me she had always been proud of me. ‘Baby,’ she said, ‘you gonna live a long time.’”
Despite her mother’s reassurance and Tasha’s lack of symptoms, the diagnosis changed her life forever. Tasha recalls, “From then on, I lived my life like I was on a runaway train. I was terrified.” To make money, Tasha turned to prostitution, which led to several arrests and prison. Along the way, drug use helped to dull the emotional pain. Things got even worse when a drug dealer shot Tasha in the head.
Eleven years ago, Tasha entered long-term care after suffering a seizure at the home of her mother, who passed away last year. But traditional nursing homes weren’t equipped to support someone dealing with HIV/AIDS and drug abuse. Plus, Tasha didn’t fit in with the largely elderly population. Frustrated and angry, Tasha arrived at Broadway House three years ago—and life slowly began to change.
“At other facilities, I did all the thinking on my own,” explains Tasha, who appreciates the support of staff members including Broadway House Director of Activities Korvette Hinton-Woods and Materials Manager and Certified Nursing Assistant Tykeiyah Howell. “Broadway House is heaven sent. Here, they help me to think in a constructive way about what I was doing to myself. Broadway House has alleviated my fears. I’m in recovery and I’m learning about myself.”
Now 54, Tasha has big plans to someday live independently and help others. She knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes: “I want to live my life the right way—no more prostitution, no more drugs—and keep my self-respect and pride. I want to tell those who are now on the streets that their lives could be better. I want to testify about my lifestyle and what I’ve been through, and hopefully help change someone else’s life.”
Then, Tasha adds, “I think more about God now, and I know he’s real. God has his hands on me and helped me to heal. I have seen the miracles God has performed in my life and am thankful he spared me. Most of all, I know that God’s got my back.”