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This Positive Life: An Interview With Esmeralda, Part One

May 19, 2010

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

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Table of Contents

This article is part one of a two-part interview with Esmeralda (not her real name). The first part of the interview took place in November 2007. Esmeralda spoke with again in April 2010, shared new perspectives on living with HIV/AIDS and gave us an update on some exciting new developments in her life since her first interview.

Losing a Partner to Advanced HIV

This is Erika Nelson, reporting for Welcome to This Positive Life. I'm here today with 35-year-old Esmeralda, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., with her husband and two HIV-negative children. Esmeralda has been living with HIV for several years. She works full time as a housekeeper and studies English in school. Esmeralda, welcome to This Positive Life.


About Esmeralda
Home: Oakland, Calif.
Diagnosed: 1998

Housewife, widow, single mother, immigrant, HIV positive, housecleaning maid, volunteer and student are just some of the labels Esmeralda has had affixed to her since she was 25 and moved from a village in Mexico to Oakland, Calif. Today, due to her fortitude and unwillingness to orphan her beloved children, the 37-year-old may be labeled a much-loved mother, wife, friend and peer advocate.

Thank you.

Can you tell our readers and listeners about your personal history with HIV? How did you find out you were positive?

I want to start my story with my husband. We loved each other and we decided to be together. I decided to be with this person for the rest of my life. Everything was going fine. After I had my first baby, my husband started getting sick. He was feeling a little bit sick, not really sick. When he ran or exercised, he couldn't get enough air to breathe. Later he started having diarrhea, and those kinds of things. At that time, I was living in Mexico.

He went to the doctor and they checked him, did some tests. He took the HIV test, and it came back negative. They told him that he had an infection in his lungs. He started taking some medicine for that, and we thought it would be OK.


But the medicine didn't work -- he didn't get much better at all. In fact, he started getting more sick. He wasn't able to run or anything like that, because it was hard for him to breathe.

He and his brother, one day, decided to go to a different doctor. He went to a big city, to another hospital, to find more opinions of what was going on with him. He left one day, Thursday, in the morning. He took a change of clothes, because they said, "Maybe we will stay till tomorrow, or maybe we will come back today. Depends." They went to the hospital, where they gave him the tests. They told his brother, "Actually, he's really sick. He has to stay in the hospital."

He stayed in the hospital, and they tested him for everything, to find what was going on. They found out he had AIDS -- really, really advanced AIDS. They said, "There's nothing to do, because it's really advanced and we don't have medicine at all for this. It's really advanced in his brain."

They told his brother, but they didn't tell him. His brother told them, "Don't tell him right now. Do whatever you can to keep him alive."

They bought two kinds of medicine, pills. They are really, really, really expensive in Mexico. They started with those two pills, but they said there was no chance. They didn't tell him the diagnosis. They didn't want to make him worried or depressed.

In Mexico, at that time, if you had HIV/AIDS, you died.

They never told him the results, and he died. By Sunday, he was dead, in the morning.

I was unable to be in the hospital, because I was feeding my baby and she was really small, and they said, "You cannot come with the baby in the hospital." It was a little bit far, and they told me to stay away.

"They didn't tell me, either, what was going on. They told me, 'He's OK. Just pray a lot for everything to be OK with him.' Even the day he died, they didn't tell me he was dead and they're bringing him back in a box."
They didn't tell me, either, what was going on. They told me, "He's OK. Just pray a lot for everything to be OK with him." Even the day he died, they didn't tell me he was dead and they're bringing him back in a box.

Everybody started getting ready, getting together. I was asking, "What's going on?" Nobody told me anything. Instead they said, "Oh, just be strong, because he's coming back. We're bringing him back now. But just pray because only God can do something." They didn't tell me he was dead already.

I was so scared. I was in really, really bad condition at that time. To see everybody getting together, everybody coming from over here, from America -- because most of his family, his sisters, are over here -- I knew there was something else.

I didn't find out till he arrived a dead body.

How did you react when they brought him back?

I was really, really crazy. I was so ... "What did you guys do?" Because he got up, walked out of his house, with his bag, telling me, "Maybe I'll see you in the evening." And they brought him back dead.

He was sick, but he never stopped working or anything like that. He didn't look like he was dying. He kept doing what he needed to do. He was sick, but he didn't stop.

I was saying to his brother, "You took him to make him better, and look. You killed him!"

I was really upset, like, out of my mind. Why did this happen? How did this happen? It's really hard to express, because it's really, really intense.

How long do you think he had had HIV before he finally went to the hospital?

I think he had it for a long time, because he had been over here for five years, in America. Then he went back [to Mexico] and that's when we got together.

Do you have any idea how he got HIV? Do you think he got it while he was in the United States?

Yeah, I think so, because the doctors said he'd had it for more than five or 10 years. The virus doesn't go through so quick. They said he'd had it for a long time.

"I didn't have the chance to ask him, 'Do you think somebody gave it to you? Do you have any idea how you got it?'"
I didn't have the chance to ask him, "Do you think somebody gave it to you? Do you have any idea how you got it?" I didn't have that chance or the opportunity to ask questions.

Later on, after we buried him, they started talking about taking me to the doctor. I had no idea why. Maybe because I was really stressed out. They'd give me pills to make me calm in those days. They didn't tell me what was going on. They said, "We have to take you to the doctor, check you, and maybe the baby." They told me, "Stop feeding the baby breast milk."

It was really, really sad for me, because my baby didn't eat. She'd cry and cry, but she didn't want to take the bottle, because she wasn't used to it. Sometimes I'd see her crying and crying and spitting out the milk. She was hungry, because I didn't breast-feed her for a long time. Sometimes I did feed her. They told me, "Don't feed her your breast milk, because the way you are, you might affect the baby -- because you are really emotional, you might pass it to her."

Nobody told you your husband had HIV, or that you might have it? Or that you might pass it to your baby? They were just giving you vague instructions?

Yes. They told me, but three or four days later. They told me he died from AIDS.

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


This article was provided by TheBody. It is a part of the publication This Positive Life.
See Also
This Positive Life: An Interview With Esmeralda, Part Two
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS


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