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Recently Diagnosed With HIV? Latino/a Community Members Share Their Advice

Recently Diagnosed With HIV? Latino/a Community Members Share Their Advice

Dealing with an HIV diagnosis on top of all of life's other challenges may seem too daunting a task to face. There's a huge community out there doing it every day, though, so to those who are recently diagnosed, you are certainly not alone. Read on for samplings of wisdom from the many Latinos living with or affected by HIV throughout the U.S. that have shared advice for coping with a recent HIV diagnosis.

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Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez, Washington, D.C.; Diagnosed in 2000

Do not let it beat you. The worry, the scariness, don't let that affect you. The person that you were when you first went in and found out you were positive, you need to still be that person when you leave, except you just have something that you have to deal with. Don't change your outlook on life. Don't change the dreams that you have. The only thing that changes is that you have a virus.

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Esmeralda, Oakland, Calif.; Diagnosed in 1998

Just take it and don't stop. Start living a new life. Make it a better life. This can make you think about what kind of life you've been living, and what kind of life you want to have. How you want to live. Because finding out you have HIV makes you think. And maybe put your feet on the ground.

Enrique Franco

Enrique Franco, Tucson, Ariz.; Diagnosed in 2007

I'm not a doctor, but the best diagnosis for me -- and I really think it is for anybody -- is not to put your head down. If you put your head down, you're not going to win. In order for you to combat HIV successfully, you've got to say, "You know what? This is my body, this is my life. I'm not going to stop living. I refuse to put my head down."

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Antionettea Etienne

Antionettea Etienne, New York City; Diagnosed in 1997

First thing I would tell them to do is breathe. Second thing I would inform them of is that this is not a death sentence. You can live being HIV positive. You can live longer than most people being HIV positive. But you have to acquire the knowledge.

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Raúl Roldán

Raúl Roldán, San Diego, Calif.; Diagnosed in 2006

I've seen this disease change a lot of people for the good actually. I'm one of them. If I could change my life, anybody can change their life!

To those who have just been diagnosed with HIV, I want to tell them that life has just begun. One does not have to get sick. This is a chronic, manageable illness and, if you take care of yourself, you can have a long and good life. In my case, I am happier today than I was before. Taking your meds is like tying your shoelaces. Life is what you make of it.

Roger Solar

Roger Solar, San Antonio, Texas; Diagnosed in 1999

Support groups. There are support groups coming up all over the place. You can look in the yellow pages, you can look in the Gay Yellow Pages, you can get on the Internet. I wholeheartedly support these groups. I think it's an asset because you need people who have been there, have gone through it, or are going through it. You become more comfortable as to "What's going to happen to me? What do these meds do? Where can I go to get food from the food bank? Where can I get help with my medication?"

You can't go into it by yourself. I don't care what anybody says. You can't. There's just too much stress to do it alone.


Lucia, California; Diagnosed in 1989

Don't give up! Educate yourself -- this is extremely important. Find something that appeals to your psyche, to your inner peace, to help you deal with the information you will be getting, because some of it will be scary as hell. If you have something inside you that keeps you calm, you will navigate through things beautifully.

For me, it's God that keeps me calm. I'm not religious though. It's just I have an incredible belief in something greater than myself.

Bernadette Berzoza

Bernadette Berzoza, Denver, Colo.; Diagnosed in 1989

Don't give up. Don't feel alone and ashamed. Reach out! If somebody reaches out to you, accept their support. Because people that reach out to you really do want to help. You don't have to give up!

That was my determination. I wasn't going to die. In the beginning I said I was going to be here for my kids. Then I said, no, I'm going to be here for my community, because they need to become aware and they need to be educated.

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Fernando Castillo

Fernando Castillo, San Francisco, Calif.; Diagnosed in 1993

Protection, that's my message. Protection, love and care. People with HIV are like negative people: We need love around us.

I would say to someone just diagnosed to get support. To see that he or she is not alone. That we are so many people who are positive navigating together in this. When he or she finds that group of people, it will be completely another game and it will be very positive, very supportive. He or she will find love and support; and, more than anything, the help that he or she needs.

Open up and look for help! Because the help is there, the love is there and the compassion is there.


Joseph, Hayward, Calif.; Diagnosed in 1995

Don't get into a corner and cry and lock yourself up. Come out of that little closet, because if not, it'll consume you. There's a life out there -- no matter what you have -- there's a life out there. I love to go hunting, I love go backpacking, I love to travel.

What's funny about it is I have this disease, but I don't think about it, I don't dwell on it. I take care of myself, I do what I've got to do, what's got to be done. But it's one of the happiest times of my life.

I'm drug free, I've got my life back and I'm happy. I've got good friends as well.

Rigoberto Maruri

Rigoberto Maruri, San Francisco, Calif.; Diagnosed in 1991

What I say to people just diagnosed is that there is hope. Now there are a lot of drugs available, but you also need to take care of yourself. Take your medications on time. Eat and sleep regularly. Have a job and find something to do, because if you keep yourself busy, it keeps you healthy.

Rosita Libre de Marulanda

Rosita Libre de Marulanda, Educator and Past Participant in the "SAGE Is" Ad Campaign; Brooklyn, N.Y.

I think that my first reaction if someone told me about getting diagnosed with HIV would be to say to them, "Oh, what a bummer. I'm sorry to hear that." I would tell them that I know people who are living with HIV for a long, long time. It may not be curable, but nowadays, people can make it through for a long, long time. It may be a little expensive, but there's Medicaid, and there are programs that can help them.

I would keep from asking questions like, "How did you get it?" [laughs] I think that is sensitive. If they want to tell me, I'll hear it, but I won't ask. That's it. It's their story.

Wendy Torres

Wendy Torres, HIV/AIDS Advocate, Atlanta, Ga.

There's a lot of information out now that can help you understand your diagnosis and know what's available to you, what type of care you need, what to do with regards to your day-to-day life, what changes you need to make.

When someone comes to you after they've found out they're HIV positive, they're like: "Oh my goodness! Why me?" You start going through all the different emotional stages that you go through. But just be reassured that there is hope, there are medicines; there's a lot of medical technology out there! There's definitely hope and this is not the end.

Jorge Zepeda

Jorge Zepeda, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, San Francisco, Calif.

I'm going to talk from my experience working with recently diagnosed individuals. One thing that I notice is that the person who is newly diagnosed has fear in terms of: "What's going to happen to my body? Am I going to die? How am I going to deal with my family and my HIV status?"

They feel ashamed. They feel in shock. They feel alone. They feel guilty.

The person that's willing to work with them says, "You're not alone! There are treatment options! You could access services! You have access to treatment." There are also support services to help deal with the emotional shock.

Norman Medina

Norman Medina, Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative, Philadelphia, Pa.

My advice for someone who's newly diagnosed is just look for someone to talk to about it. It's not the end of the world. The first thing, and the most important: You are not alone.

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