Connect With Other Women, Find Encouragement and Support
My name is Elizabeth Marte. I am the new outreach worker at Women Alive. First and foremost, I would like to brief you about myself. Born as a Latina of the Dominican Republic, I am a single mother of three children and soon I'll be a proud grandmother.
PregnantBack in the summer of 1993, a year and half after my youngest son was born, I became involved with a man. I had no idea that this man was infected with "The Virus." Soon I was to become pregnant by this man. During my first prenatal care appointment at four months of pregnancy, I was asked by my doctor if I wanted to be tested for HIV. Concerned about the well-being of my baby, I consented to take the test with no real concern for the results.
I was alone in the house when the phone rang. It was my doctor with the news that my test came back HIV positive. When I heard those words, I felt my heart drop. I broke out in a cold sweat and all I could think about was that my life was over. I guess the doctor thought my life was over too, because the doctor immediately arranged an appointment for me to have an abortion. The doctor said that it would not be right for me to bring a child into this world just to watch him/her die.
FearI was shocked and afraid. I didn't know anything about HIV/AIDS, so I took the doctor's advice. I went through a three day abortion procedure and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. She also told me never to take any kind of HIV drugs because she felt that it would cause me more damage than not taking anything at all. I don't think that's a very good thing for a doctor to be saying to someone who has tested HIV positive.
Unfortunately, we can't trust all of the doctors all of the time. Now that I have become more educated about HIV, it is obvious to me that this doctor did not know what she was talking about. But, I wasn't educated about HIV/AIDS, and I didn't know anything myself.
KnowledgeLack of education can cause many of us to suffer needlessly. It's very important to educate yourself about HIV/AIDS and all of the diseases that come with it. And it's equally important to educate ourselves about all of the medications used to treat it, how they work, and how much we should take.
DisclosureI never hesitated to disclose my HIV-positive status. I didn't keep it a secret. I didn't feel ashamed. I only felt fear when I was diagnosed. As a matter of fact, I became educated about what was happening in my body, both mentally and physically. I tried to learn everything that I could about this damn disease.
I ended up taking anti-HIV medication and I will never regret it. My health is very good today and I see my doctor on a regular basis. I don't pressure anybody to do what I have chosen to do. I feel that it is each person's personal choice. But I also believe that people need to read, to learn, and to educate themselves and each other as much as they can in order to make informed decisions.
It's very important that people make an effort to reach out for help. It's often the only way we can compare notes about medications and give each other support in our informed choices. There is a great support system here at Women Alive. I personally have benefitted from attending the heterosexual support group. And because I speak two languages, I will be looking forward to attending the monolingual Spanish speaking group on Thursday evenings.
At any rate, I disclosed to everyone. I even "went public," being very new at this. (What I mean by "going public" is that I participated on agencies' speakers bureaus and spoke publicly about my story and my status.) I told my story on TV and radio. My story was published in magazines and newspapers. I went to many high schools hoping that someone would listen and learn from my experience.
Silence SucksBut the most gratifying moment for me is when I have a chance to engage in a one-on-one conversation with someone who otherwise would probably never take the time to listen or even speak about HIV and AIDS. Many people are afraid to talk about HIV. One of the major things that is killing people is the silence among all of us. I look forward to going out into the community and reaching out, especially to those of us who don't dare reach out for help. I feel that it is crucial that we reach out to those in need, it may be that the person only needs a hug or someone to talk to or someone who will listen.
DreamWe must unite (work together, learn together, and help each other) if we want results. I have many dreams and I tell you "dream!" It's OK to dream. It is your right to want a better quality of life. We must not give up because God never gives up on us. I look forward to seeing you out there. I hope we at Women Alive can make a difference in this world, like many of you have made a difference in our lives.
By the way, this man, he denied everything. He denied that he was infected, he denied that he infected me, and then he died of AIDS.
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.