Hi, I'm one of the thousands of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. I'm Puerto Rican and was born in New York City -- Spanish Harlem. I'm one of the people that had an abusive childhood. My family always thought that giving a beating was the way to make me listen. So, I turned to drugs, alcohol and prostitution at the age of eleven, never knowing that there was another way of life. And, after several years of my life in and out of jails and prison, I finally went to a drug rehab. And that was where I became clean and sober, and ready to take responsibility for my actions.
Then, in December of 1989, I decided to take an HIV test. And, while waiting for the results of the test, I really believed it would come back negative. But, in December 1989, my whole world was turned upside down because the test came back HIV-positive. At first I became numb, then shortly after I went into shock for about one week. But then I had to make another decision, and that was to live, or keep using drugs and die.
The first person I disclosed my HIV status to was my best friend who is now my husband. As soon as I told him, he said to me that he couldn't believe it because I looked healthy. He suggested that I take another test and at that time I told him that he should get tested too! My second test result came back positive and his was negative. I felt a big relief because he was negative. Since my first HIV-positive result, my husband has never changed his attitude with me and he accepted me, maybe more than I did at that time. He never treated me any different. He encouraged me to see the doctors and to take care of myself.
The next person I told was my younger sister. She appeared to act normal about it, but then she told her church community about my HIV-positive status and they told her that they didn't want the kids going to day care and the whole family had to be tested. Of course, everyone's test results came back negative. I'd never given her permission to disclose my HIV status without my permission. So, as you can imagine we are not that close.
My mother is getting better. She actually kissed me the other day. I feel that my mother and family are ignorant about HIV. My mother is now educating herself a little more about HIV and is becoming more supportive over time.
Now it's October 2001, and I'm still alive. Because of all the support, therapy, doctors and medicine, I've become able to appreciate life on life's terms. Now, I believe that there is a purpose for me in this life. Being diagnosed with the virus has motivated me into being helpful to other human beings, like me or otherwise. I've also learned so much about this virus, and that is that we can live strong and good lives for a long time -- by being positive and keeping a positive frame of mind. Today I am looking forward to going to school and someday the University of HIV, and becoming someone who can help people just like me. And, at the same time, I will be giving what has been given to me, a second chance at life.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).