Before anything I want to introduce myself to all of you. My name is Melina Arevalo. I am a transgender woman living with HIV. I have to confess that it is not easy for me to reveal myself to you. I am nervous and have many feelings and memories. Up to this date I have many things to recall, but before anything I am alive. I thank Jehovah, my God!
I am one of the long-term survivors of this epidemic. I've had the virus since 1980, in those years when many people died, those times when nobody even knew that we had it or what to call it. There was nothing! We could not do anything. We didn't have medication nor clinics, nothing... in those times we lost many friends.
I remember going to a private clinic out in Van Nuys to get my blood drawn. I was applying for naturalization and I had to get my blood drawn. I was called into a little room where the doctor told me I had AIDS and I was going to die. I cried and called my brother to come and pick me up. My brother and family members cried; we all thought I was going to die.
I got lost in alcohol and drugs, crack cocaine. I did not care. I also became involved in prostitution, until one day I was ordered by a judge to get tested again and get enrolled at APLA. I got enrolled in support groups, clinical services and counseling.
I had a very strong collapse. I was paralyzed, became confined to a wheel chair, lost my memory and went into a coma. When I came out of the coma I had a lot of diarrhea, every minute! I became very thin. But thank God, my family was always with me, my mother cleaned me and my caretakers and my brothers always came to see me when I was in a hospice, a place where people went that had no hope for life, a hospice in Van Nuys.
But God made my recovery possible. I can walk, and today I am a miracle before you! I share my life, my experiences, my feelings, my fears, my hope and my faith! Today my life starts, my fight starts, and it continues.
Today I am part of a group T.U. (Transgenders United) at Bienestar of Hollywood. I think that's all I can share, now that I've written a little about this, my salty tears are running out of my eyes. This testimony is something very powerful to me. I still feel it inside of me and with this ending I must stop in order not to be overdramatic.
To those living with HIV, I encourage you to keep on going. Take your medication, slow down if you are partying too hard, seek support groups, keep your mind busy.
Thank you all! And I hope that my TESTIMONY OF LIFE will serve as something for all of you.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).