Shelly has always been very athletic. She competed in both her high school track events and in community races in her hometown of Essequibo, Guyana. In 2010, she was ecstatic after winning a cash prize for placing first in an annual regional championship. However, her life took a turn one year later.
Shelly became pregnant and, during an antenatal care appointment, tested positive for HIV. The news devastated her, as she believed that an HIV diagnosis meant her athletic career was over. Shelly was unaware of how to remain healthy while living with HIV, and so she soon became ill, weak, and lost a significant amount of weight. To add to this, she was unemployed and lacked the means to provide for her newborn son.