Alba: "I Think I'm the Oldest Woman Living With HIV!"
At first I was scared to death about HIV. I was trying to get my life back again, plus, I had an emotional rupture with my boyfriend. It was so hard for both of us to accept HIV. I got to acceptance, but he did not. He left me and said I was the person who infected him. I was alone to be with the emotional difficulty. My family supported me well, and my human family of friends also supported me. In the beginning, I did not want western medicine and I stuck with eastern care for 10 years. Later someone convinced me to follow both, but it was so hard. My stomach was so delicate with the meds. I had no appetite and was vomiting from them. I am still healthy but I got sick in October and decided to go off meds. I want to live my last years relaxing with a good stomach, enjoying my life -- I want to be me. I went back to eastern treatment -- herbs and vitamins, and I am okay. Doctors could not tell me what was wrong. They tested everything on my body and I'm healthy everywhere. My family was so worried. My t-cells have come back up after my sickness and I am getting better.
In the beginning, I did not see the full picture of my life with HIV. But life has not changed with HIV. I am the same person with the same essence -- it does not change. I have the same values and the same strong faith in the Creator. My message is that your essence, your spirit has to be really together and strong. If you are strong inside, you are strong from the outside. I don't think anything will help you if you do not have faith, not medicine or anything. I believe in the Creator, the metaphysical. We are here for some reason. In the beginning, I tried to help so many people. I worked on the WORLD newsletter, a Spanish newsletter, and helped people with HIV in a group and at clinics. All my life I was very involved. About five years ago I stopped and said I will now dedicate more of my energy to myself. I am still happy to talk with people and share my knowledge. This is the meaning of life, whether you have HIV or not.
For 10 years I tried to help my expartner with his sickness but he was in denial. He got very sick and toward the end of living here he had dementia. I tried to help him to get back to Chile since he wanted that. I told him it would be best to stay here but he did not listen. Now he is back there but does not have help. It was a heavy load for me to carry. I carried him for 10 years, every time he was sick he called me. I would get him appointments with specialists and he would not go. I finally said " I don't want to help anymore," I did not want to push him anymore. I stayed close to him until he called me from Chile with collect phone calls. I stopped accepting the calls. I made connections for him in Chile and said goodbye last year. I feel so relaxed now because I did for him what I needed to do. You cannot carry the destiny of another one. It's enough to carry your own. People need to learn for themselves. Some people never learn. He never saw me in the world as I am; he never loved me as I am.
HIV stigma has not changed in my country. I love my country but I do not like parts of the culture -- the prejudiced part of it. My country is a beautiful country but there is not enough trying to help each other. My children and grandchildren born here know about my HIV, they love me so much, they don't worry about it and they don't care. My friends also know and nobody cares about it! I have had no bad experiences. The people I got close to saw my inside, not outside. Everything is a gift from heaven. I am blessed. I do not care about my HIV, if I do not care, who else should? HIV has been a chance to learn things in a hard way. People with HIV are more open souls -- they understand life better. They have to learn to live with it. It is one more thing to carry in your life, it is part of you. You can help and teach people about this. I am grateful to be alive and have life as it is, full of people who love me.
No one wants to believe that I have HIV. People say, "That's not possible!" I think I'm the oldest woman in the world with HIV! I never feel my age and only began to realize how old I am when I got into my 80s. I feel what it is in my body to be old. Before this, I did not feel it. I never had older people around me, I always had young people, and I did not understand about being old. I did not fear it; I was just in my life. People look at me like I am a miracle. I feel I am not better than anyone else. For some reason I am alive, the Creator has some reason to keep me alive. My sick time has not been about HIV. When I got sick recently I saw a doctor and I told him I have HIV. He asked how long and I told him. He could not believe it! I do not feel the HIV, but I do know I'm getting older. Older people I know have the same symptoms I have. It's aging. My friends were always younger than me. Inside I am young. Being old is new -- I have to accept it. My physical body is getting old, but not the rest of my body.
With the rest of my life, I will help myself and others who need my help. I have always been taken care of by someone in my family and my family of friends. My faith has helped me be alive and also help others. I'm getting old because I'm supposed to. Now I take no more than the vitamins and herbs. What really helped me for years was the breathing and movement of yoga. Moving still helps me -- everyday I go down and up my stairs. I love going outdoors and being alive. I will see how my body works and I will not push life. Your life is like a river, you have to let go to the current to get where you are going. You swim against the current and you get hurt.
This article was provided by Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases. It is a part of the publication WORLD Newsletter. Visit WORLD's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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