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Damaries Cruz

October 15, 2008

By Bonnie Goldman

Listen to Audio (18 min.)

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This podcast is a part of the series This Positive Life. To subscribe to this series, click here.

Welcome to This Positive Life!

Thank you.

When were you diagnosed with HIV?

I was diagnosed on November 23, 1991.

It's amazing you still remember the exact date.

It's part of a celebration of my life, so I have two birthdays. I cut a cake when it's November 23 and I celebrate that I'm surviving.

I imagine you saw a lot of people die in those years. That was before treatment was available.

Yes. Unfortunately, I just recently lost a friend two weeks ago.

Was this another person who had had HIV for a very long time?

Yes. I think since 1996. Unfortunately, she had cancer too and they were doing chemotherapy. It didn't go too well.

Tell me what it was like in 1991 to be diagnosed with HIV.

I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old. They told me back then that I had one year to live. I really thought it was the end of my life.


Soy (Preview)

Groundbreaking Spanish-language media campaign now being broadcast on Spanish media, created by Univision and Kaiser Family Foundation, 2008. To see the full-length video, click here.

What was your CD4 count? Do you remember?

Let me think. It's been a long time. The last number I can remember is 600, a few years after that.

Damaries Cruz

Damaries Cruz

Your CD4 count was pretty high, yet you were given a bad prognosis?

Yes, but they gave me that prognosis because they assumed that HIV means "dead," so you're going to die regardless. They just didn't know a lot about it.

How do you think you were infected?

I know how I was infected -- it was by my fiancé at the time. I met him and I asked him if he was positive, if he ever tested, and he said, "Yes, I'm negative." Then I started to have a lot of yeast infections for a whole year, vaginal infections. The doctor thought that I had cancer and he said, "Go and get tested for cancer. Do a biopsy, because I'm sure you have cancer. Do HIV just to rule it out." The biopsy came back negative and the HIV test came back positive.

When I went home and I told my fiancé, he said, "I knew I was going to take someone with me. I never thought it was going to be you." He knew all along that he had it!

What did you do?

I reacted to it. It didn't hit me until later on. I still was going to marry him for a few reasons. For one thing, I didn't think anyone was going to accept me with HIV. And I was in love with him and my heart doesn't know how to hate someone.

But the week before the wedding I found him with someone else in bed. He passed it to her too.

You found out later from her?

No. I found out later on from someone else that she had it.

Did you break off the wedding when you saw them together?

Yes, I did. He passed away two years later.

He left a big trail behind him.

Yes, he kind of did.

What happened then? What a traumatic way to end a relationship!

It was really hard because that first year, I really struggled a lot. We were going to get married right away after we were diagnosed; then this happened. I was with my mother in her house, and she had to do everything for me because I said, "Well, I'm going to die in a year anyway." She had to feed me because I was so depressed that my mind threw me in bed.

What happened is that someone from church passed around. They took me to a retreat and I felt that God healed my soul.

How long was this after you were diagnosed?

A year passed.

When you were first diagnosed, who did you tell?

I told my fiancé first because he was my partner; then I told my mother.

Was your fiancé much older than you were?

Eight years older.

When you told your mother, what did she say?

My mother is a very religious person. When I told her, I was trying to be calm, telling her everything was going to be OK. I remember I had to step out. When I came back, everything in the house was all over the place. She was enraged, but she was calm and said everything's going to be OK.

It's been a learning process since then. She's been OK because I'm OK.

Did you go to any doctor after you were diagnosed?

After I was diagnosed, it took me a while to accept my diagnosis. I got retested six times. I went from New York to Puerto Rico six times because I thought, somewhere, they were doing something wrong.

Where did you get tested, in New York or Puerto Rico?

The first test was in Puerto Rico.

Were you and your fiancé living in Puerto Rico at the time?

Yes, we were.

How did your fiancé get HIV?

There were so many different behaviors, so to this day I'm not sure. He used to use drugs for a long time before I met him. He had tracks on his arms and everything. I don't know if it was from that. He was also in prison, so I don't know if he had sex with men in prison because he was there a long time. He used to do stuff on the streets, so I don't know if women would come and do sexual favors to get stuff from him.

I didn't know about any of this behavior when I met him.

You found out later.

Later on.

How long did it take you to go see a doctor?

I went at the beginning, and then after that I didn't go. I take care of myself now, but I kind of block some of the time out, so I cannot pinpoint if I used to go all the time. Then I moved to New York. When I was there I saw a doctor for a little bit, but that was it.

When did you start treatment?

Actually, I'm not on treatment.

You never took treatment?

No.

Wow.

"For me, personally, it's important to be public about living with HIV because it's part of my healing. That's what helps me to keep going: knowing that someone, hopefully, is listening and won't get infected."

I don't take medications. I was diagnosed with AIDS two years ago because my T cells went down. They came back up. I never took a medication, I never had a symptom. I do holistic things.

Are you in any long-term studies of people who don't progress very much?

Yes, I have been. I'm not anymore, but I was in a research study with the University of Miami.

Why do you think it's important to be public about living with HIV?

For me, personally, it's important to be public about living with HIV because it's part of my healing. That's what helps me to keep going: knowing that someone, hopefully, is listening and won't get infected. I think that's very important. I go to schools a lot and talk to kids. Whoever I talk to, actually, it helps me.

It might sound like a selfish reason. [laughs]

No, but it helps them, too.

Yes. It helps me to help them. That's my medicine right there.

When you say you do holistic things, what kinds of things do you do?

I take Chinese herbs. I have a hypnotherapist. I get hypnotized once a month. We visualize my T cells going up and the virus going down. I do a lot of meditation. I'm on a regimen of supplements and vitamins.

What kinds of supplements and vitamins?

I take Ester-C, omega-3, selenium, B complex, pre-natals, seaweed pills. I know I'm missing a few.

How do you educate yourself about HIV?

I don't like to read or anything like that. I moved here to Florida almost 10 years ago, and I started volunteering at a center where I was a client. Volunteering, getting involved in activities, I learned more about HIV and then I started working in HIV. That's how I learned more.

What center was this where you were a client?

We used to have it. They closed already, but we used to have Center One. That was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Aside from your mom, have you told other people?

Oh sure -- it's been a long time. Slowly she's been telling her family herself. I tell other people.

Is she living in Puerto Rico?

Yes, she lives in Puerto Rico.

How accepted is it to be HIV positive in Puerto Rico?

It is not. [laughs] I don't know about now, but it was horrible then.

How was it horrible?

I was made fun of, I was pushed to the side, I was left behind on dates.

What do you mean "left behind?"

I would go out on a date and tell the person, "By the way, I just want to let you know I have HIV." I would have to take a taxi home.

They would just --

Leave me behind.

Walk away from you?

Yes. They ran away, not walked! [laughs] They ran away.

But you kept going out on dates? You were very brave! [laughs]

I had the great opportunity to meet great people and have great relationships. They didn't know anything about HIV when they met me, and they were willing to learn because they got to know me for who I am. That gave me the opportunity to teach them.

So not all of the men ran.

No -- most of them.

Most of them ran.

But not all of them! [laughs]

The good ones, we can say, stuck around.

I would say the open-minded ones, the smart ones, the ones who learned about HIV, yes.

You got very strong.

You know, you have to. No one likes rejection. I'm not going to lie: I would cry and I would not understand it. But after so many years, you have to learn that it's not about you, it's just that they don't know about the virus. Because I'm just like anyone else. I just have an illness that has no cure.

Right, and you got tested and maybe they didn't.

Exactly. Maybe they were running away because they were scared about something they did in the past, and they don't know how to face it.

Do you think there's a lot of discrimination in Puerto Rico?

I think everywhere, not only Puerto Rico. I think everywhere there's still a lot of stigma, a lot of discrimination. People don't want to learn about this disease. I really don't know why. I think they're scared to face their own behavior.

What's the worst thing that ever happened to you regarding discrimination?

I can tell you a small story. I can tell you the first time I disclosed. I don't know if this will be discrimination, but the first time I disclosed was two years after I was diagnosed. I was doing some things I was not supposed to do, because I was on the streets.

I remember this guy and we kissed. He pulled a gun to my head because he thought I gave him HIV through kissing. I really thought that moment that I was going to die of a bullet in my head. I had to calm him down, and we talked. What happened is that he had done some things in the past, and he was looking for someone to blame. He got petrified.

That's the worst thing that happened to me, I think, aside from the point that maybe some friends -- because we were so young -- would not hang out with me because I had HIV and they thought they'd get it. If I was drinking from a cup and they knew I had HIV, they threw the cup away. They wouldn't touch the cup right in front of me.

This is when you were living in Puerto Rico?

Yes.

You said you were doing something on the street. Could you tell a little bit about that?

Not really. [laughs] We all have a past. It was just doing stuff. You're young and you're silly and you follow people. That's part of it.

How old were you when you moved to the United States?

It was always back and forth. I was diagnosed and I stayed in Puerto Rico another two years, then I went to New York. I was there for a few years and then I went back. Now I've been here 10 years in Florida.

You're happy in Florida?

I'm super happy!

I live in Deerfield Beach, closer to Boca Raton. I work in Miami.

Have you been able to form a community and find lots of people that you can talk with?

You know, I've been really blessed because, just before that center closed, I got to meet a lot of people. I have no family here in Florida, but I have -- in my circle of friends, my closest friends -- I have 30 of those people that you can call any time. I'm really, really blessed. I have 30 of those. If I need them, if I just need to vent, they're always there.

That's great!

I think that's really important. Your support system is what's going to get you through this -- and, of course, your faith. Without my faith I can do nothing. I'm very spiritual. My support system is great.

What do you think is the hardest thing about living with HIV?

The hardest thing about living with HIV is breaking with the stigma. It's hard. When I go and teach, I ask first how a person with HIV looks and how can you tell when someone has HIV? You still hear those things about, "You can see sores." Or the kids will say you can see pink lips, or red eyes, or something. I think the stigma is terrible.

Do you think it's worse in the Hispanic community than in other communities? Or is it the same?

I used to say it was the same, but then I got to work more with the Hispanic community here in Miami, and I think it's worse. Some people pass by the table where we have information and they don't even want to go to see what it is about because they see the word "HIV." I think it's because of the taboo.

I don't know if things have changed nowadays, but back in the day when I got infected we never talked about sex, we never talked about condoms, we never talked about anything. That's why I ended up getting infected. I think it's because they don't talk about it.

You think that talking about HIV is forcing people to speak about things that were formerly taboo?

Of course! Because then you have to talk about sex. Then you have to talk about behavior. Maybe my parents don't want to know; my mom never talked to me about sex.

What is the most important thing that HIV has taught you?

"The hardest thing about living with HIV is breaking with the stigma."

Wow. [laughs] You know, it turned my life upside down. I don't take anything for granted. I live like I'm a child. Every little thing -- yesterday I was walking on the beach and I saw a dolphin from far away. I'd never seen a dolphin in my life! [laughs] I looked like a little kid because I was so excited. Little things make my day.

So you're excited to be alive.

I'm excited even to wake up, yes.

Is that why you have two birthdays?

[laughs] When I was diagnosed I had to find a way to turn this horrible thing, this negative thing, into a positive. I had a choice: I could sit there and cry and let this thing eat me alive or I could just celebrate my life and beat it. That was my choice.

What would you advise somebody who was just diagnosed?

That's really hard to do. When I was diagnosed as HIV positive, a person that was positive came into the room and I didn't care what she was saying because it was not her, it was me. But I realized that there's hope. There's life after HIV. Your life doesn't stop. For me, my life began. I stopped smoking, I stopped drinking, I changed my life around.

It sounds like you grew up very quickly.

"When I was diagnosed I had to find a way to turn this horrible thing, this negative thing, into a positive. I had a choice: I could sit there and cry and let this thing eat me alive or I could just celebrate my life and beat it. That was my choice."

I had to. [laughs] Even though I like to act like I'm 18 -- that way I can try to look like I'm 18 -- I have to face life. The sooner you embrace it, the sooner you will really live life and enjoy it.

Because you had such bad experiences at the beginning, did you purposely seek out positive people?

Actually, no. After that happened to me at the beginning when I disclosed, everybody that I dated was negative until I moved here in 1999. The first person I dated was positive. Then after that they were all negative.

I was so fed up of disclosing and I was just tired of being rejected.

When I first moved to Florida, I remember I went to a women's group. The first thing this lady said was, "I've been diagnosed for a year, and I don't think I'm ever going to date again and I'm never going to have sex."

I remember I looked at her and I said, "No, you'll be OK. You watch, in another year you'll be fine." The next year she met someone and they're already living together. I said, "You see!" The person was negative.

There's hope. You're not HIV. You are you. You have a soul just like everyone else.

How does your connection to being religious help you in living with HIV?

I'm more spiritual than religious. I was raised Catholic but I learned other things when I moved here to Florida. I learned about reiki, which is energy, and Japanese healing techniques. That helped me to bring my T cells up and to be happy. I believe in God, because without Him I can't be here. That helps me to keep going.

What do you advise others to do about disclosing their status?

You've got to get to know the person at least a little bit and feel if it's worth it for you to tell them that you are positive. But if you are going to be intimate, then you definitely have to tell them you're positive. It depends on you. If you like this person and you think they're educated enough, you should tell them.

Well, you know, it depends on you. People notice here that I'm positive because of the kind of work I do, because I've done campaigns. They even have an intervention tool and I'm a participant on it. It's really cool. But if you were in a regular place and it's not necessary for you to disclose, why would you disclose?

I think some people mistakenly worry that it's their responsibility -- they're thinking, "What if I fall and I bleed or something?" They're not very knowledgeable about transmission, so they think, "Well, I should tell." What's your experience been?

I worked in the corporate world before I was with the [Miami-Dade County] Health Department and it was nothing related to HIV. I never told them because it has nothing to do [with my job] -- if I'm a receptionist, why am I going to tell them that I'm HIV positive? It's not like they're going to get it from the phone. You've got to educate yourself and know what type of risk you're putting people in. If you think you're putting people at risk, you should disclose it if that's what you want to do.

Thank you so much for talking with me.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

To connect with Damaries, click here.

Want to find out what Damaries has been up to? Check out Damaries' April 2011 update interview.

This podcast is a part of the series This Positive Life. To subscribe to this series, click here.

Soy (Full Version)

Groundbreaking Spanish-language media campaign now being broadcast on Spanish media, created by Univision and Kaiser Family Foundation, 2008.



This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Liz (B.C. Canada) Mon., Mar. 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm EDT
I just wanted to say it takes courage for all of you to speakout, this is wonderful.

I have a long story myself, since been diagnosed with Hiv in 2001, I had tried two different cocktails, I had jaundice and a severe rash that accompanied it. Now since 2006 I found out I have liver disease, I also had a a low cd4 count at 180 back in 2001, now my cd4 is low, because of a drug holiday I took myself on for about 1 year. I don't want my liver taking a beating, I still deal with the hypersensitivity/rash. I'm on the newest of medications one called Intelence and my other two are Ziagen, and Viread. If this rash persists I may be out of choices for medications. I heard this one woman who was drug resistant to Intelence and now she is getting an injectable. I think women should be able to get a drug test to see how much we need, but the recommended dose is so how, I don't think I can handle the massive amounts of medications, this would make anyones' live fail. These meds were designed for men. We are completely two different species.
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Comment by: juan-k (san fran, ca) Thu., Jan. 20, 2011 at 10:01 pm EST
holas ...queria saber....como puedo mandarte un mensaje en privado? tengo preguntas y yo se que todo el mundo te pregunta...y seguro te cansa responder lo mismo a cada rato....me quiero mudar por donde estes tu porke aqui no conosco a nadie ke tenga hiv....tengo mucho miedo y no se ke hacer laverdad....trabajo y estudiaba.....pero ahora con todo esto nose como hacer para salir adelante...no le he dicho a nadie aun..bueno gracias espero me puedas responder ..no se si dejar mi correo aqui kiero mantenerme anonimo....gracias!
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Comment by: Damaries (Florida) Fri., Sep. 17, 2010 at 11:17 pm EDT
Hello everyone..from time to time,I check this blog to be able to answer to you and to gain strength and courage to keep going, I thank you all. Its been a rough year for me but it can only get better. Get tested, dont be scare to know, be scare of not knowing. Be well, Namaste..
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Comment by: Maribel (Ft Lauderdale,Fl) Mon., Jul. 26, 2010 at 2:05 am EDT
Damaries,
Dios es maravilloso y me alegro que tu salud este estable con la ayuda de El. Creo en los milagros yo tambien pase una prueba grande en 2004 porque fui diagnsoticada con leusemia y me habian dado poco de vida pero Dios se apiado de mi. Hoy puedo decir que el momento mas intimo que he tenido con Dios fue durante esos momentos duros cuando crei todo irremediable y es alli cuando te das cuenta cuanvalioso el la fe. Yo leo tu testimonio y tengo la certeza que de tu fe ha emanado vitalidad y doy gracias a Dios por haberme traido a este foro. Dios te bendiga porque ers una persona maravillosa y tambien ejemplo para todos nosotros. Bendiciones!!!
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Comment by: danita (georgia usa) Sat., Jun. 19, 2010 at 4:28 pm EDT
I love you for sharing. I dont know if Im positive I ask my partner to get a test but he rufused. Im so scared.
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Comment by: Rhianne (Australia) Mon., Jun. 7, 2010 at 1:27 am EDT
You are a strong, beautiful woman and an inspiration to women across the world. I will never forget what I have read toay, and wish you a long and happy life x
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Comment by: Damaries Cruz (Florida) Thu., Feb. 11, 2010 at 10:18 pm EST
Thank you everyone for your kind comments. Have a great Valentine's Day with your love ones...Be well.
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Comment by: Abhijit R (New Delhi, India) Tue., Dec. 8, 2009 at 5:57 am EST
"You are not HIV, You are you" that's how everyone should look up to a person infected with HIV. It's really wrong for people like us to treat HIV positives as some untouchables. Damaries, i must appreciate your courage and determination you have shown in fighting the disease (not AIDS) called social discrimination and i have no doubt you have inspired lot of other people to do the same. ALL THE BEST
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Comment by: TARONJELA REEVES (DOTHAN AL.) Fri., Nov. 13, 2009 at 12:13 am EST
YOUR BEAUTIFUL AND GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH I HATE THAT THIS HAPPENED TO YOU MY GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP HIM FIRST IN YOUR LIFE
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Comment by: Katie Cyphert (Ft. Lauderdale) Thu., Sep. 3, 2009 at 9:50 am EDT
Damaries you are a hero. Reading your story was quite an emotional event for me. While I am not HIV positive I am indeed transgender. I know what you feel like when you are rejected by people who have little or no understanding about something. In my personal life, I myself fight with the concept of telling people (if I date) about my past (I am post operative). If I tell him will he walk away? Does my transgender status make me any less of a woman than any other? Do I really want to face this possible rejection? I am sure you have felt these feelings in your life. Thankfully we are both strong!
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Comment by: Nathaniel Nieves (Orlando,Fl) Tue., Aug. 11, 2009 at 8:32 pm EDT
Lo has dicho sin Dios es imposible.Jesus te tiene bajo la sombra del omnipotente.Bella tu historia,brilla tu historia y brillaras para siempre.
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Comment by: Jay (Pompano Beach, FL) Wed., Jul. 22, 2009 at 1:35 pm EDT
Hello to all, I want to let everyone know that Damaries is a personal friend of mine. The fact that she constantly reminds me how important my health is and how I should get tested and retested and continue to practice safe sex. She has educated me in many ways about this illness and I thank the lord for placing her in my life. She is always busy and we don't have the time to hang out much but the times that we did were special to me because she's an amazing person with a great personality. Every time I get a call or see a text from her makes me feel special and quickly makes me smile. I've met many people in my life time but have only a handful that I consider to be a true friend and she is one of them. Not too many people will take the time from their busy schedule to bring you some chicken soup when you feel sick. If there is anything she needs or she ever needs just to talk and release some stress, i would feel honored to lift the frown off her face and replace it with a peaceful smile. May the Lord continue to bless this young lady with health and bless me with such a great and beautiful friend.
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Comment by: Mikey (Barcelona, España) Sat., Jun. 6, 2009 at 10:08 am EDT
Hola Bonita. Acabo de ver tu video y me ha animado escribirte que estoy por tí y veo hacia arriba a las personas como tú que una luchadoras por la vida y derecho de ser como hemos nacido. Espero que tendré tanta fuerza para decirselo a mi famila y a mi gente. Me ha gustado y video y que hay personas como tú.

A ver si podemos contarnos mas, de verdad me faltaria hablar con una persona como tu.
zonefiv@yahoo.es
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Comment by: Robyn (Massachusetts) Tue., Jun. 2, 2009 at 4:20 pm EDT
I think that Damaries Cruz ia a beautiful and brave young woman for telling her story. I wish her the best and lots of love and happiness for many years to come!
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Comment by: carlos santana Lebron (new york city,bronx) Mon., May. 25, 2009 at 11:23 am EDT
l am here as a friend dee, my spouse gave it to me too. we have to know the meaning of truth in relationships. dios te cuide negra, soy de juncos.
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Comment by: Damaries Cruz (Florida) Mon., Feb. 23, 2009 at 12:32 am EST
Just wanted to say hi to all of you and again, thank you for your great, encouraging words and remember.....dont give up...united we can fight it!! Be well and thank you
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Comment by: T.rex (Los Angeles) Thu., Feb. 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm EST
I don't mean to talk about the physical, but what an attractive young lady! Are you single? hahah. Its wonderful to hear that you enjoy success with a holistic approach, as well. How is South Florida? If you visit LA, I'd love to take you out. trex3@ca.rr.com, Anthony.
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Comment by: Dleh (KL, Malaysia) Mon., Feb. 9, 2009 at 10:00 pm EST
Your story really inspired me.. Thanks
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Comment by: Anonymous (US) Thu., Jan. 22, 2009 at 8:35 am EST
Great story Demaries. I am HIV positive and my sister died of HIV in 1995. I am proud of you coming out and saying it. I wish I could be so strong. May God bless you always and may he continue to bless us all!
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Comment by: Pat (Atlanta, GA) Fri., Jan. 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm EST
Damaries,

I heard your powerful story at the USCA in Ft. Lauderdale in September and to see you and your mother both on stage telling your story, it brought tears to my eyes.
I wish you the best and stay strong and powerful! o
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Comment by: Jennifer (Florida) Mon., Jan. 12, 2009 at 11:05 pm EST
Thank you, Damaries :)
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Comment by: pamela (south africa) Wed., Jan. 7, 2009 at 4:36 am EST
Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. You are truly a great inspiration to me. I am HIV positive as well, diagnosed Oct 2005. I take each day as it comes. Thank you so much. Can we share e-mail addresses? My email is pammagona@webmail.co.za
Love
Pamela
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Comment by: Chewy (Penang,Malaysia) Tue., Dec. 30, 2008 at 10:50 am EST
You are truly a remarkable character that should be an example to everyone that faced other problems. God Bless You and wish that your attitude can still affect more people down the road!
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Comment by: Eric (Beijing) Sun., Dec. 28, 2008 at 3:58 am EST
Your story is incredibly inspiring, and your courage is an inspiration to everyone who reads this, most of all myself. Thank you for your strength and helping one person feel a little less afraid.
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Comment by: Damaries (Dee) Cruz (Deerfield Beach Florida) Sun., Dec. 21, 2008 at 10:22 pm EST
Happy Holidays everyone...thanks again for such of great comments. Keep up the fight :->
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Comment by: Tons (Indonesia) Sun., Dec. 21, 2008 at 5:18 am EST
What an amazing woman !!! May God bless you
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Comment by: Princess (Pretoria, South Africa) Wed., Dec. 17, 2008 at 7:37 am EST
Wow, that is an encouraging story. I was diagnosed on the 27th of March 2008. The only person who knows is my boyfriend , when i received my results it felt like there was a storm outside hence the temperature was 33 degrees. It took me a week before I could internalise what was going on and then from there I decided to live. I am happy that I know my status and that I read your story. I believe through JESUS Christ our saviour we can live. I have just finished my 1st year MBA studies. When I received my results I was very close into deregistering but I decided that I will not wait to die. I wish one day I could be as brave as you and share my story. Keep up the good work.
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Comment by: onyekachi (NIGERIA) Tue., Dec. 9, 2008 at 9:22 am EST
WOW! Dama you are my hero,u are really giving hope to the hopeless! your story just told me there are still people living with AIDS that are very strong. although i am not HIV positive but if i become one today i would not discouraged i will live my life to the fullest and the way GOD wants me to live it REMAIN BLESSED.
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Comment by: Emma (Kenya) Tue., Dec. 9, 2008 at 4:35 am EST
I am humbled to say the least and thanks for inspiring others with the story of your life...am -ve but have a special interest in HIV/AIDS and will do anything to be of help to those affected and infected...

God bless u!
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Comment by: Renee (NC) Fri., Dec. 5, 2008 at 12:59 pm EST
Hi, I have been HIV+ for about 11 mths since the birth of my first child which was 5 wks after coming back from my honeymoon and finding out I was 4 wks pregnant. It was a huge blow! All i could do was cry and it seems that i went to another place and haven't been back since. My husband and mom are the only relatives that know and its been so hard to cope. I'm afraid to inform anyone else. I feel as though i'm a walking disease. It just hurts. I don't know how to pick myself up again to live life better than before. Your story has truly inspired me and many more to pick up the broken pieces and place them together to fit how i want to live life now but i just can't seem to get there ...
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Comment by: CHARBEL (LEBANON) Sun., Nov. 30, 2008 at 12:25 pm EST
I HOPE FROM GOD TO HELP YOU AND HONESTLY IT IS A GREAT IDEA TO SHARE YOUR FEELINGS TOGETHER. HOPING FOR YOU TO HAVE GOOD HEALTH AND TO BE PRODUCTIVE IN SOCIETY.
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Comment by: veronicah (kenya) Fri., Nov. 28, 2008 at 11:43 am EST
Gal, you touch my heart. That courage takes God's hand. Keep it up, for encouraging people infected to date, sure. Love greases the heart and adds a smile to a sad face.
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Comment by: Thomas (Nairobi, Kenya) Tue., Nov. 25, 2008 at 3:10 am EST
Hi, Damar. It's good to see and hear people still able to hold onto God when all else seems lost. As a soldier you have faithful and steadfast to your call and that is remarkable. I tested HIV+ in March 2005, something I contracted in my marriage when my wife tried to help God give her a baby. I was and am still a practicing counselor serving people living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya when it occurred during an awareness campaign that I asked my colleague to test me for demonstration to lure our targets to come forth for testing. She passed on 7 months later from remorse of her betrayal but I forgave her and never fought nor quarreled but loved her even more. We are called to forgive, in it there's a spiritual gem of life for who dare believe and obey despite the humanness in them. HIV is a sickness like any other and it shouldn't be treated as a plague. I say this knowing what we face as +ves but we ought to focus our eyes to the unseen and command our world in faith and love. You can all reach me through: aggreythomas@yahoo.com. God bless all.

For the -ve, stay safe, and for us +ves, life is big and God even bigger, love yourself and forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. However painful, I thank God for counting me worthy to experience something that everyone seems to scoff at just like Christ on the cross.
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Comment by: Damaries Cruz (Florida) Mon., Nov. 24, 2008 at 9:16 pm EST
Hi, everyone. Many thanks from the bottom of heart. Please, please, don't ever lose hope. Keep your mind and heart free of stress and sadness and remember that life is precious and it can bring lovely surprises. I just wanted to share with all of you the gift of hope ... hope is something that sometimes we lose because we don't see it ... my hope was to meet someone one day, someone that would listen, someone that will look at my heart without judgment and what would you know ... I met someone. This is to show all of us not to lose hope in any type of situation regardless of what is going on in your life at this moment ... hope brings you healing. Be well. Dee
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Comment by: hh (Milford, PA) Mon., Nov. 24, 2008 at 6:59 pm EST
Hi Mikey (Toronto Ontario, Canada)

Go to this site if yoiu want to find out about a study for nonprogressors
http://www.hivcontrollers.org/
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Comment by: jay (nigeria) Wed., Nov. 19, 2008 at 8:17 am EST
Dee, you are a hero. You have added hope to my life. I was diagnosed in Feb. 2006. I have never allowed it to weigh me down. Nobody in my family knows so that i can stay longer, and before I was diagnosed i fell in love with a guy. I'm now going to marry and let him know cause he may have been infected because I don't even know how i got it. But i am living a normal life because I have faith in God. I want to live to take care of my daughter who is negative and my husband who may be infected. Have faith, all those that are positive. Believe it you will not have faith like Dee.
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Comment by: sk (india) Tue., Nov. 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm EST
hi
you may touch a new friend at
snehashaktiworld@rediffmail.com
i m always with you in yr path
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Comment by: Lea (Mississippi) Mon., Nov. 17, 2008 at 7:20 pm EST
I enjoyed reading the article - very interesting. My ex-fiance is HIV positive. We eventually broke up because of the strain it put on our relationship, mostly on his part. He was just so afraid of passing it on to me or my kids. It has been several years now since we broke up, but we talk regularly (talked to him last night, LOL) and he is doing much better - healthy and he has finally accepted the fact he is positive. He works in construction, so he has to tell others on a daily basis. I think that has helped him accept it, because to his surprise and mine, most people seem OK with it. And that is VERY surprising - especially in Mississippi, LOL. Thank you for sharing your story, Damaries. God bless you, sweetie.
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Comment by: Mikey (Toronto Ontario, Canada) Mon., Nov. 17, 2008 at 8:51 am EST
Great Story... Very inspiring.... I have been positive since 1983 and just like you I'm taking no meds. You mention in your story that you were in a long-term studies group at the University of Miami. I would like to join this study if possible who would I contact...Thanks
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Comment by: Mikey (Toronto Ontario, Canada) Sun., Nov. 16, 2008 at 8:22 pm EST
Great Story... Very inspiring.... I have been positive since 1983 and just like you I'm taking no meds. You mention in your story that you were in a long-term studies group at the University of Miami. I would like to join this study if possible who would I contact...Thanks
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Comment by: ruth merin (kuwait) Wed., Nov. 12, 2008 at 12:38 pm EST
hi..i am really glad to see people affected with hiv open up something like this. i am doing a project in my school for biology and thats y i came in here to look up her story. i really am happy for her. there are so many sadists around the world trying purposely to infect others with hiv that we do not know of. i live in a country where maybe out of the 10 lakh population may be just a handful are affected with hiv. no one even knowz zbout these people here, coz itzz a strict rule to make it known outside. here the hiv people can't live their own lives out with others, but have to live in hospitals under special care and protection. this is why in our country no one particularly knows about hiv-aids. we just learn about it a little in school..that's the end of it. so i am really glad for people like her who open up their lives for the whole wide world....god bless her!! god bless all the hiv affected people!!!!
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Comment by: Kalale patrick (Kenya(Turkana)) Wed., Nov. 12, 2008 at 10:15 am EST
Congratulations. May God give you more years to live as an example. GOD BLESS YOU.
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Comment by: Musonda (Lusaka, Zambia) Tue., Nov. 11, 2008 at 8:44 am EST
My dear friend, your inspiration and belief are the most important aspects that one carries over if you have to live a longer life. I believe as a Christian even when you taking some medication when you are diagnosed with the HIV/AIDS virus, if you don't believe in God, it takes you down. But to those who believe and have faith that the Almighty creator, who is a loving father, with great patience, always forgives and heals even raises one fom the dead and adds up more years on you. May the Lord God Almighty God adds more years to your life so that we work together in the same spirit of helping those who are afraid to come out in the open. When I did my viral load test of T cell (CD4) I was found to have only 83 T Cells and was not afraid but raised hope since I knew if I believed in dying I would have died. My current T Cell is at 168 and this is just some six months ago when I did my tests. I told the doctor courageously that I needed to know my CD4 count so that I know what is specifically troubling me since the malaria became so holistic in my life and was not healing. I truly saw death one day, but God spoke to me and said, my child you will not die because you have not yet finished your works which you started and you cannot leave the orphans behind you. I am a widow with six children and I got HIV virus from my live in boyfriend who was playful and now he's late. To date I look after myself and children and makes sure that I work hard and eat healthy foods to give my body a supplement of vitamins which would be replaced by tablets I would instead be taking. I am on ARVS (truvada and niverapine) but usually take my medication with a free mind since I believe a free mind ALWAYS keep one healthy. If you want to know more on my status and believe me you are free to write to me "ammbolton@yahoo.com" is my yahoo ID. I praise God and thank Him that you, me and others are there to help those who are still living in self denial. God Bless.
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Comment by: toad head (ireland) Sat., Nov. 8, 2008 at 4:36 pm EST
i am glad you shared your situation
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Comment by: Daisy (South Africa) Sat., Nov. 8, 2008 at 5:03 am EST
My sister, you rock. I was diagnosed in 2006, still can't cope with this horrible thing. I've lost lots of opportunities. What makes me more angry, is that the person responsible for this also lied to me.He knew he had it. Without my knowledge, he was sleeping around with more than 5 women without using protection. By that time, I was at the University. Then graduated with two things in my life to deal with. It's sad that by the time you find out, they are not there to be found. I'm very bitter and angry. Think I hate him for that. At least, if he can apologise, I will move on. That's the reason I find it hard to cope with the virus. Anyway, everything happens for a reason. I lost my brother to it then, I thought I'm next. Thanx a lot, your story is inspiring. We need people like you. Keep up the good work.
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Comment by: Damaries Cruz (Florida) Wed., Nov. 5, 2008 at 8:27 pm EST
Wow! This is so great, thank you so much for sharing your stories and experiences and for your love and support. Words can't express the gratitude that I feel in my heart. Wow! Don't ever let HIV/AIDS hold you down or make you feel ashamed. Help me to brake with the stigma, don't forget that you are a human been like anyone else just with an illness that has no cure. I'm so proud of you. Thanks for being part of my healing...Dee (Damaries Cruz)
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Comment by: Michael (Columbus, OH) Fri., Oct. 24, 2008 at 3:00 pm EDT
You are truly inspiring and I admire very much your courage, if only more people where open minded things would be much easier for those of us who have the disease. I been diagnosed since 96 and I'm having major trouble having to tell a potential partner of my illness. I truly don't know where to turn, but I'm glad to know that it can be overcome. Keep up the good work
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Comment by: Teresa (Gainesville, FL) Mon., Oct. 20, 2008 at 8:59 am EDT
You go Girl! Keep inspiring others as you have been. All women, men and children living with HIV/AIDS should know that we cannot allow society, family or friends keep us from speaking up. No one should feel ashamed, no one should feel like they are not part of our families and society. You are helping to reduce the STIGMA by speaking up. I pray that more will come forward and take a stand and take their POWER back as you have. Thanks so much for your courage and commitment to let others know that life can be good and that you can also look like the DIVA you are! I just love ya and keeping on rolling! We are behind you every step of the way! Love you mucho!!
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Comment by: Marilyn (Miami, Florida) Sat., Oct. 18, 2008 at 11:21 am EDT
Dear Dee, YOU and YOUR mom are such STARS and role models for ALL of us in facing ANY crisis in our lives...I am so blessed to know you...THANKS for sharing your life and love with so many of us. STARS to you and Blessings to you and loved ones, MV
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Comment by: Marla (FL) Fri., Oct. 17, 2008 at 11:31 pm EDT
As always, your courage and positive attitude inspire me. The community is so lucky to have you as an advocate and educator. I'm so proud to have you as my friend.
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Comment by: Rose (PENNSYLVANIA) Fri., Oct. 17, 2008 at 10:45 am EDT
I have been positive since 1994 and at the same time found out I was pregnant. My daughter is 12 yrs old, neg. Reading your interview inspired me even more. I have a very positive attitude and live life as good as I can.I do not let anything or anyone get me down. No one in my family knows because of the stigma thing, but I have a very good friend who's been there from the beginning. My daughters know and their concern is that I am healthy. It's a shame that yrs later there are people still so naive about the disease and stigmatize those living with it. I'm not saying that getting the disease was good for me. but it has changed my outlook of life. I enjoy each day and find joy in the smallest of life's miracles. I also take better care of myself. I have grandchildren that I thought I would not get to see and now my mission is to see them grow up. Keep up the encouragement, strength and positive attitude you possess and pass to others. However hard it is we should all be strong willed, optimistic and fight for life. It's what we have and control. God Bless you and all of us living "positive."
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Comment by: Elayne (Lexington, KY) Fri., Oct. 17, 2008 at 9:22 am EDT
Hi. You are truly an inspiration for all women who struggle with living with this disease, especially women of color. God bless and keep you healthy for a long, long time.
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Comment by: Luis (Puerto Rico) Thu., Oct. 16, 2008 at 7:35 pm EDT
Wow Damaries, te felicito y te envidio por tener el coraje de continuar adelante sin que nada te derrumbe! Fui diagnosticado en Abril 26 de 2006 y de la forma en que menos esperaba la gran noticia. Acababa de comenzar una relacion hacia tan solo 3 meses y fui junto a mi pareja de aquel entonces a hacernos la prueba como rutina y para mi gran sorpresa sali positivo! Han pasado mas de 2 años y aun no lo puedo creer ni me he recuperado de la impresion...y sabes que es lo peor de todo que me quede completamente solo, sin trabajo, endeudado, en depresion y todo lo que te puedas imaginar! Lo menos malo es, que a igual que tu, no he desarrollado la enfermedad y se puede decir que estoy saludable pues los conteos de CD4 son altos y la carga viral muy baja y hasta indetectable. No se si es una bendicion o una cruz con la que tendre que cargar hasta que Dios diga...Sigue adelante y espero que continues teniendo mucho exito en todas tus facetas...
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Comment by: Nina (vancouver bc) Thu., Oct. 16, 2008 at 1:12 pm EDT
Your story really inspired me.I am dealing with this desease for a long time myself and i never foung the courage to disclose my status to my family members.At times i feel very lonely and scared dealing with the whole situation all by myself but ur story has motivated me and given me a little courage to consider disclosing my status to my family members... so thank u very much.
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Comment by: Andrea Johnson (Philadelphia, PA) Thu., Oct. 16, 2008 at 8:15 am EDT
Yo soy positiva desde el July 2007. I am an African American whose story is so similar to yours. I too had a fiance who I am now married to that was HIV positive, but lied about his status. I had the feeling of no one else loving me with this dreadful disease and I married him, something that I now regret and see was a really big mistake. It is miserable living with a person that knowingly transferred something this horrible to you without giving you the choice. Although we went to get tested together, we were in separate rooms. Since he knew his status and did not have to disclose his true status to me, which was already known by him before we got tested, I trusted him in that when he told me he was negative as the truth. Unfortunately on July 11, 2007 I found out the lie he had tried to cover up came to life in me. It is a horrible thing to have happen to you when you live a responsible life full of love, honesty and respect for self and others. I thought about dying but God wouldn't let me stay in that state of mind. Instead God lifted me up and put me in front of people and places so that I could continue to be the "loud mouth" he made me to be. After being in the law field for almost 20 years, my life mission now is educating, testing and counseling people, especially women, on the epidemic that is mainly infecting and affecting African American and Latino females. I am now a HIV testing coordinator and counselor as well as an advocate that is turning my positive status into a positive message that prayerfully will help to save lives. Keep up the good work, mi amiga!!!
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Comment by: Anna (Orlando, FL) Thu., Oct. 16, 2008 at 7:27 am EDT
Damaries, I was diagnosed December 27, 2001 and I, too, celebrate two birthdays. I heard your story at the 2008 USCA in Fort Lauderdale and I am happy to say that you made tears come from my eyes. There are still times when I feel like I have been rejected and you allowed me to understand that it is OK. I thank you for your strength and encouragement in my fight for life.
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Comment by: Lilly (New York, NY) Thu., Oct. 16, 2008 at 1:26 am EDT
Hi! I have been HIV positive since June 1992. My story well I stayed at home depressed didn't want to go out since I looked like I had the virus and people in the neighborhood would comment. Then my 3 siblings died with HIV, that really hurt my mom, nephew, and my son. I decided this is not going to happen to me, today I take medications and work as a Peer Health Educator helping other women in the same situation and giving them hope...I have been living with this virus for the past 16 yrs. and plan to live another 20 yrs. I'm not leaving my son or my mom behind without me...they are my strength. My job helps me in so many ways it keeps me strong mentally and physically. My mom and son are so proud of me since I took this virus by the horns and said "You are not controlling my life-I'm going to live many years" I take medication -- 15 pills daily, but it lets me deal with every day life.
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Comment by: Lilli (New York, NY) Thu., Oct. 16, 2008 at 1:06 am EDT
Yo soy positiva desde el Junio 1992 Y me recuerdo
ese dia como si fuera hoy, una enfermera me dijo que tengo VIH el corazon mio paro por un momento.
El hijo mio estaba con migo el tienia 11 anos y ahora tiene 25 anos. Se graduo del collegio y yo pensaba que me hiba morir- no salia a la calle, esperaba me muerte entonce yo dije"NO" esto no me mata tengo un hijo y voy a viver por el. Mis 2 hermanos y hermana muerienron con VIH y mi mama lo tomo muy fuerte; pero hoy en dia ella esta con migo y me mantiene fuerte. Esta es mi historia. Lillyzalez@hotmail.com
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Comment by: ozzie (Netherlands) Wed., Oct. 15, 2008 at 10:30 pm EDT
Es admirable que tengas el tezon que demuestras en la entrevista y que te mantengas tan bien a lo largo del tiempo Damaries.Yo tuve una terrible experiencia durante la cual crei que tenia vih. Fueron los tres meses mas horrorosos que he vivido. Despues de aceptar que no habia sido infectado (high risk one night stand), pues ya lo daba por hecho, he cambido mucho en mi actitud hacia las enfermedades y los que las sufren, especialmente el vih. Ahora dono sangre, dono dinero y ayudo mientras puedo a aquellos que necesitan una palabra amiga, consuelo en su agonia. Para terminar con el stigma solo hace falta que la gente viva algo parecido, pues es lo que mejor funciona para entrar en conciencia de lo terrible que es la enfermedad, pero aun mas terrible es ser rechazado por algo que no tiene nada que ver con uno como persona.
Te deseo lo mejor y mucha salud junto a los tuyos Damaries.
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