This Positive Life: An Interview With Esmeralda, Part One
May 19, 2010
What kind of support did you have through this whole time? Did you talk to anybody about being positive? Did you go to a support group, anything like that?
It took me such a long time to do it! I was really scared. I was hiding all the time. I didn't even want people to see me much, because maybe they'd find out. I was really, really hiding for quite a time.
I got a social worker who started talking to me and a nurse from the county who sometimes came to my house and talked to me. Those people started helping me.
They started inviting me to see other people. I thought, I don't want it. I was really, really scared.
My social worker said, "You know, I'm having a party today." It was close to Christmastime, or something like that. She told me, "It's more friends who have what you have, and they want to understand you, and they don't want to judge you. They want to support you. You'll be OK, because it's not somebody else who doesn't understand."
I decided to go to the party that day. I didn't have any ride, and I didn't know how to use public transportation. But I knew where it was, and I told my social worker I'd try to get there. She gave me some tickets to get on a bus to go there. I didn't know how to get the bus, where to get it. What I did was I started walking.
I walked for two hours. I got to a bus station and I called my social worker. I said, "I tried to come, but I don't know how to get the bus. I was walking, but I didn't find the place." I told her where I was and they came to pick me up. I was really close already.
This group of people, they told me, "Oh, I have HIV. I've had it for this much time." They told me how they were doing. I saw really good people who didn't look sick -- who looked OK. I saw another woman who had two children, and she was doing OK.
I started talking to them. They all gave me their phone numbers to talk to them if I needed anything.
They became good friends. Sometimes I talk to them and say, "I don't know what to do. I have this appointment and I don't know how to do it." Some of them came and gave me a ride, and helped me to get to my appointments. Sometimes we just talked.
I started thinking to myself, "I have to be OK. I need to be OK for these kids."
I was struggling, because the family I was living with, the sister of my husband, she would tell me, "Be careful. The dishes you use, don't leave them everywhere." You know, like that.
I told my social worker about the situation over there. And she helped me. She said, "You want to get out of there?"
I said, "Yeah, because sometimes I have to go out. When I come back, the door has closed. I need to wait till 9, or late, to get inside, because I don't have the key to go inside the house, or to go to the garage. I need to wait." It was a hard time.
She said, "There's a place, it's a shelter, and they have a place right now." She asked me if I wanted to go there.
I went to the shelter. It's more for women, if they have been abused. But they accepted me, because I have children and I had nowhere to stay.
I stayed in the shelter for four months. After that, I found a room that I didn't have to share with anybody. Because in the shelter we had to share with another person. It was a really tough time. It was hard to share a room with another person who you don't know, who has a problem that's different than what I have. It was tough.
"I started getting more angry. And I started learning more. I started learning how HIV can pass to another person."
ut it's when I started getting more angry. And I started learning more. I started learning how HIV can pass to another person.
I saw people treating me good -- like, "You won't pass HIV to me that easy."
When I got out of the shelter, I moved to this room. It was in Oakland.
That's when I found WORLD [Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases]. They helped me a lot, too. I have a peer advocate over there who talks to me, who brought me here, to find more services, and things like that.
How long do you think it took you to process the diagnosis?
More than a year, because I didn't have any support. The place where I was living, they didn't let me process, I think, because they didn't accept too much, and I had to be careful.
I had to think all the time about what I have, and I was scared. After I got out of there and I started learning -- I think that's when I started to process, and started to try to live a normal life. Two years, I believe.
This article was provided by TheBody.com. It is a part of the publication This Positive Life.
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