Being a woman of Mexican descent, born in the U.S., I felt very proud and honored to be part of the conference and to represent WORLD. My mother is from Mexico, so even though it was my first time to visit Mexico City, I felt at home among people who speak Spanish and who share my culture. This feeling of connection made our conversations richer, and moved me deeply, as I shared experiences and information with locals who came to visit the WORLD table in the Global Village.
I will never forget the HIV+ positive women who approached the table with anguished faces. Our eyes would meet, and I would let them know that I am living with HIV too, that in their struggles with HIV they were not alone. Only then would they let their guard down and open up to me, telling me how they were diagnosed and who had infected them. (It was always their husband or partner.)
There were couples, too, looking for information together. One married couple spent 45 minutes at our table, asking how HIV is contracted, what medications are available, and how my life has been since being diagnosed.
I got to do prevention education with young people, handing out condoms and letting the young women know that even a single sexual encounter without a condom can put them at risk of infection. Their eyes would open wide, as my personal story helped them understand the risk is real.
I learned about how Mexican women have organized support organizations to help them fight HIV and stigma, and how sex workers have formed organizations to provide legal and medical support. And several providers asked for information about the Lotus Project, so they could learn from WORLD's experience training peer advocates.
My favorite workshop, "U.S. Migrants and HIV" covered the increase of migrants coming to work in the United States and the changing sexual behaviors among them. Jorge Zepeda, who facilitates a support group for HIV+ Latino/as for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, shared how members come together to support newly diagnosed persons. I also shared about the Corazones Unidos (United Hearts) Support Group at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Both groups have helped members find a "family" to help those who are scared and in need of support.
Want to read more articles in the December 2008 issue of WORLD Newsletter? Click here.