Bernadette Berzoza, Denver, Colo., diagnosed in September 1989
Don't give up. Don't feel alone and ashamed. Reach out!
If somebody reaches out to you, accept their support. Because people that reach out to you really do want to help. You don't have to give up!
That was my determination. I wasn't going to die. I was going to be here for my kids in the beginning. Then I said, no, I'm going to be here for my community, because they need to become aware and they need to be educated.
I need to be here. I don't want to die. I want to be alive. I want to see my kids grow up. I want to see my grandchildren. I want to see them get married. You know, I wanted to do all those things. I want to be here.
I think the scary part about it is the unknown. That was my big thing. I was so afraid about, "How's it going to be if I get sick? How's it going to be if I get sicker? How's it going to be if I die?"
I used to live day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year. Now I don't; I'm just like, "I'm going to live." If anything, live your life to the fullest. Don't let this disease take control of you, or your mind or who you are. Be who you are!
It took me a long time to struggle and get to this point. I tell people this when I'm telling my story. I didn't have a substance abuse problem. I didn't have a mental problem. I didn't have other factors, you know, other than society and domestic violence. But I didn't have those other things that sometimes make it harder too, if they find out that they're positive. That's why [the organization] Sisters of Color United for Education is here; that's why I'm here. I'm here to try to help make it through those things in any way. There are other people out there that are trying to do the same thing.