I tested positive for HIV in late 1994 in Los Angeles at Kaiser Hospital. It took until 1995 for me to seek health care and also because I later lost my job and did not have insurance. The reason why I decided to seek out health care was because I started to lose a lot of weight. I then found out that I could assess my health care at Harbor UCLA. I later became very sick with PCP and TB. It was then I found out I had nine T-cells. I was hospitalized for three weeks.
The first person I told was my younger brother and he later went back to our homeland and he told everybody. Later, that brother's daughter, my niece, called me to tell me that he had told everyone about my HIV status. She said that they spoke shamefully about me. I was very upset at my brother and asked him why did he tell everyone. He said that he wanted to tell everyone that if a married woman could get HIV, that they could get it too. I now feel ashamed to go home. It was very difficult because my family were pushing me aside. They didn't call me or invite me over like they used to, and they were afraid to hug me. My sister and I are not close anymore because one day she told me that I was crazy because I also go to a psychologist for my depression, although she calls my father to see how I'm doing. I also stopped going to family gatherings, so now they don't really call. I have one brother who lives in San Bernardino who calls me for my birthday and to see how I'm doing.
Another person I told about my HIV status was my father who is 94 years old. He told me to take my medicine, to get out and be active and to take care of myself. He supports me a lot. We are going to go to a senior citizen party this week. He has not pushed me away. I think that I am closest to my father. He has been the most supportive.
As I mentioned before I have a son who is now 21 years old, and who lives with me. I told my son in 1995 that I was HIV positive. He was very upset. He has always been very concerned about me and my health, especially if I don't take my medication.
I recently told a female friend who is HIV negative. She invites me over and she doesn't care if I have HIV. She doesn't treat me any different. Also, some of my former co-workers know that I'm HIV positive and they treat me the same. A lot of my friends have shown concern for me.
I feel that I'm very careful about telling people about my HIV status because I have been pushed aside, especially from family members, but there have been people who don't care about my status and have shown that they care for me.
Today I feel better. I continue taking my medication, even when people were telling me not to take it because it was toxic. But I continue taking it because my T-cells have gone up to 785 and my viral load is undetectable. Sometimes I go to church, which helps me, but I pray everyday at home, which gives me guidance and inspiration.
I also thank the women's APLA luncheon because I meet different kinds of women and people who support me. I also go to other social and support groups outside of APLA that support me too!
I thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).