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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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HIV Tests in Mexico and the U.S.

Once you found out that he was positive, and that you might have it, did you then go to the hospital and get tested?

Yes. They took me to the hospital to get some tests in Mexico. In Mexico there's nothing, no education about HIV. I didn't know anything about it. Like, AIDS: You just die. Your diagnosis means you're dead.

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I was thinking I was going to die. People have a lot of fear about HIV, or AIDS. Actually, I'd only heard of "AIDS." I'd never heard the name "HIV" before. I'd heard about AIDS, but people don't talk about it too much.

They took blood tests at the hospital and told me, "You have to come back in two weeks." I went back to the city in two weeks, but they didn't give me any receipt, or anything, to go pick up my results. When I went to the hospital, they said, "You cannot come inside the hospital with a baby, because it's dangerous. You have to go somewhere else." They told me, "You don't want to come inside right now, because we just took out a dead body of someone who died from AIDS."

Oh, my God. If those people knew I had come to pick up my results from an AIDS test, they'd want to kill me.

I started walking around the hospital and I found another entrance, and I went inside to try and get the results. But I didn't tell them why I was there. I just said, "I've come to pick up some results." They asked me what it was for: "For diabetes? What is it?"

I didn't tell them, because I was scared to tell anybody. I said, "I don't know. They took some blood and I don't know what it's for. I'm just coming to pick up my results." I didn't pick up any results, and I went back home.

How did you finally find out that you were positive? How long did it take?

I went home and I was alone. I didn't have my family on my side, because I hadn't gotten married. My family is Catholic and I didn't want to get married by religion because my family told me that when you get married in the Catholic Church, it's forever.

I wanted that, but I saw my mom struggle a lot with my dad. It was hard. I said to myself: I don't want to get married till I know the person. I don't want to get married for the religion till I know the person is the one who's going to be good for my whole life. If he's not, I don't want to keep trying to have this person in my life, or get married and stay with this person. If he's not good to me, I don't want to be with this person forever.

For that reason, my entire family stopped speaking to me. They didn't want to know anything about me. They said, "You just get out of the house. You aren't our daughter anymore, because you didn't get married."

"I was thinking I was going to die. People have a lot of fear about HIV, or AIDS. Actually, I'd only heard of 'AIDS.' I'd never heard the name 'HIV' before. I'd heard about AIDS, but people don't talk about it too much."
Did you have a ceremony; it just wasn't Catholic? Or did you not get married at all?

I didn't get married at all. We were going to get married legally, but not in the Church.

Four days after my husband died -- I had been living in the house with him, and all his family was there, they told me I had to move out. My husband was dead, I found out it's possible I have AIDS, and also I have to get out of the house. They told me I had to find another place to stay.

Why did they ask you to leave?

They said in this nice way, "It's going to be really hard to live over here now, by yourself." I had to leave the house, and I had to find a place to stay, with my daughter.

One of my husband's sisters told me to come to America. I didn't want to come, because I wanted to die over there in my country. I wanted to be buried with my husband. She said, "You're alone over there, and we can't help you. Why don't you just come over here so we can help you with the baby?"

One of his brothers said, "I go all the time over there. If you don't want to stay anymore, any time you want to come back, you come with me."

I decided to come. It didn't matter where I lived.

As soon as I came over here, I went to take the test.

The test result came in two weeks, and the test was negative. That was in October.

They said: There's a really big chance you have it; we're going to give you another test soon. They gave me another test at the end of December. They gave me my results on Jan. 2, 1998.

At that point, how long had you had HIV, do you think? What year did you and your husband get together?

We'd been together for two years. I don't know when I got it. In those two years I think it happened.

You said that when your husband got tested earlier, when he first started feeling sick, his test was negative. What do you think that was all about?

I think the equipment wasn't working well. Because it was a small city and the technology over there was no good. I think that was what happened.

You think that he had HIV before you guys even met?

Yes, I think so.

When you tested positive in early 1998, what did you do then?

"The first time I came up negative, I could breathe a little bit. When they told me I was positive, I stopped again -- like, living, you know."
The first time I came up negative, I could breathe a little bit. When they told me I was positive, I stopped again -- like, living, you know.

What do you mean? What did you do?

I was just waiting to be dead. I was struggling still, because of my baby. I thought: This baby's going to have it. If I have it, the baby's going to have it.

I was really, really scared for my baby. I was just worried for her. I didn't think about me or anything. I just worried for her, because why did she need to be living with this?

Did you go get your daughter tested at that time?

Yes. They tested her after they found out I was positive, and she came out negative. They said there's a big chance that she doesn't have it, but we want to keep doing the tests.

I was feeling a little bit better for her. But also, I was really, really scared. Because I was thinking, I'm going to die.

Another thing: I found out I was pregnant in that time. In October, when they first gave me my HIV test results, it was negative. Later on, I started feeling like, I have these changes in my body, and I don't know why. My breasts are growing. After I stopped feeding the baby, everything went down. And then my body started coming up again.

They gave me a test for that -- in November, I think -- and they told me, "You're pregnant."

Who was the father of this baby?

My husband, the same person. I got pregnant before he died. In November, I was four months pregnant. I had no idea I was pregnant.

A couple of months later you figured out that you were HIV positive. Then what? Did you start taking medications?

They said, "Your HIV viral load is not high, and your T cells are really high. You're OK, but we have to start giving you medicine to prevent HIV in the baby."

"I started taking the medicine. That's when my fight started -- fighting to be OK. I needed to be OK, I have to be OK, for these kids. Because I'm not leaving these kids alone."
Were you worried about passing HIV on to your second child?

Yes, I was worried. But I was a little more confident that he'd be OK. But I was really worried about my first baby, because I didn't have any treatment and I was breast-feeding the baby for a long time.

Ultimately, both your children are negative, right?

Yes. They both are negative. They told me, "There's a new medicine now. You can drink it, and you can be OK. You can live for five years." I said, "I want to start taking it, because these babies are negative. The longer I can stay with them, looking after them -- it would be helpful for them."

Did you start taking meds after you had the second child?

Yes. I started taking the medicine. That's when my fight started -- fighting to be OK. I needed to be OK, I have to be OK, for these kids. Because I'm not leaving these kids alone.

If I started thinking about dying and leaving those kids -- I'd get really, really sad. I didn't have anybody who could look after them. I couldn't say, OK, I can die in peace, because my kids will be OK with this family. I didn't have that.

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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.com. 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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