I am a transgender woman, living this lifestyle since I was 19. Before anything I want to introduce myself, my name is Roberto. For me it was the most difficult moment in my life when I was diagnosed with AIDS. I was not aware of how advanced the scientific knowledge in medicine was, therefore I thought I was going to die. I was diagnosed in August 1999.
There were moments that I thought the end was near since I was without work, without family and sick.
The worst mistake one can make is to have sex without protection because they are told "I love you" or they believe they are in love. In my case, my partner told me that he was healthy, that he was without diseases and I believed him. My advice would be that if you are truly in love, prove it by getting tested together. If someone truly loves you, they will accept you if you are HIV positive or negative.
I asked myself, "Now what is going to become of me?" But I knew that with faith in God and a lot of personal strength I was going to overcome my disease. I also knew that the support of my social workers, nurses and doctor, was going to help me even more.
All I have to say is that "God bless all that fight against the disease."
Telling others about your HIV status is a way of getting things off your chest, a need of telling others, of having someone give you courage, of someone giving you a hand. Of course, you should not tell just anyone. Tell a trusted friend.
This information is very confidential, information to be told to someone who appreciates you and cares for you. For instance, I found friends in the clinics, we shared our stories, told each other how it happened. They understood because they were in the same situation. My brothers were also very supportive when I told them. They would let me hold their babies and would tell them to kiss their aunt, me. This made me feel as if I did not have HIV.
I have told my HIV status to those closest to me, those who I knew would accept me. You are the only one who knows who is going to give you support. When you feel that someone is not trustworthy, trust your instincts.
When I was diagnosed, I told close friends whom I considered my family. They helped me and advised me that we would overcome this situation together and since the U.S. was a first world nation, I could receive good services here.
Before I told my mother I had prepared her already. She knew I was sick. I had lost a lot of weight, had trouble breathing and had a dry cough. When I landed in the hospital with pneumonia, the doctors recommended that I take the HIV test. I contracted HIV, I believe, at the same time I became infected with syphilis.
My partner at that time told me that he would be with me until the end. He took care of me, gave me courage and motivated me. This was the start of my decision to live life. I started taking my medication, hoping that with God's help I was going to overcome this. The key to one overcoming this disease is having great inner strength.
It was like a miracle from God. Three months after taking my medication, I was a different person who had the vision to keep on living.
Overall, it was all worth it, waiting it out with the side effects; I went from two million copies to undetectable in three months and my T-cell count increased. It was then that I began to appreciate and value my life.
Thanks to all the people who supported me: family members, friends, doctors, nurses, health workers, but most of all God, my Father.
We who live in the U.S. have a lot of opportunities at our advantage. In other places like Africa and South America, even closer in Mexico across the border, people are still dying. I do not understand why some choose not to take medication when it is at their disposal. Let's not leave anything that you could do today for tomorrow. Today is the day to take the test, to get treatment, to tell someone you trust and to lose the fear.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).