July 14, 2008
Esmeralda (not her real name) discovered that her husband had HIV only after his death, a few days after he had entered the hospital for the first time. The couple had been living in a small Mexican town. At first, his family didn't tell her what was wrong.
She soon discovered that she too had HIV. She was breastfeeding her baby daughter at the time and, to protect her daughter from getting HIV, she was told to stop breastfeeding. She remembers being "really, really scared" for her baby. Fortunately, her daughter was HIV negative. But Esmeralda discovered that she was pregnant again.
Four days after her husband's death, Esmeralda was encouraged to move out. With little money, one baby, and another on the way, she had nowhere to go. So, she crossed the border into California to live with her sister-in-law. While she was pregnant with her second baby, a boy, she took medicine to prevent the transmission of HIV and didn't breastfeed him either. He is HIV negative.
Esmeralda's life soon took a turn for the better. A social worker, a nurse and a peer advocate helped Esmeralda with services. Through them, Esmeralda met women with HIV who became her good friends. They gave her rides to appointments and supported her.
These days, Esmeralda is happily married to an HIV-negative man. She's doing well medically and she even works full time cleaning houses. On evenings and Saturdays, she takes English lessons. She also volunteers at a women's HIV organization and an HIV clinic.