This Positive Life: An Interview With Esmeralda, Part One
May 19, 2010
What job are you doing?
I clean houses.
You do that full time?
Yeah. And I go to school, too. I go in the evenings.
You're studying English in school, right?
I go on Saturdays, too, to school.
I go twice a week and once on Saturday. My kids are taking a Japanese class on Saturdays, too. They go to class and I go to class.
Do the people that you clean house for know that you're HIV positive?
I just work for them; and also, those people, I almost never see them. I just come clean the house and get out of the house. I have a key. Go inside, clean the house, and get out of the house.
Have you ever experienced any kind of stigma or discrimination at all because you're HIV positive?
I was taken out of the house I was living in with my husband because of that. There was no other reason.
In Mexico, I didn't tell anyone -- I kept it quiet -- but some close people, I think they knew. And they kept their distance.
I remember in Mexico, one neighbor offered me some food, and as I was going to get the plate, she pulled back the plate and she, with her hand, put the pieces of food on my hand. She didn't let me touch the plate.
You talked about not being close with your own family. What about the family of your husband who passed? Are you still not close to them? Do they know your HIV status?
They all know. All his sisters, brothers, they know he died from AIDS, and they know I have it.
Do you ever talk to them?
Once in a while I talk to them. I had been in touch with the mother of my husband. She was nice to me. She loved the kids. She passed away two years ago. I always tell his family where I am, where the kids are, so they can get to know them. I want my kids to know where they came from.
"It's better to find out than not. Because if you find out, you can take care of yourself."They almost never call them, and they never visit them. What can I do? I always tell them: "You know, the kids are over here. Whenever you want to talk to them, whenever you want to call them, they are here." But if they don't want it, I don't want to force anybody. In July I took the kids to see their grandpa, because he was really sick. And that's the last time we saw them. It's their family. But they don't really call the kids or visit us, at all.
What do you think has given you the strength to speak out about your HIV?
To prevent and to help. Because I was so closed. I didn't know anything about it. I was really scared when it happened.
To prevent people from getting HIV and encourage people to find out if they have it -- to take the test to find out. It's better to find out than not. Because if you find out, you can take care of yourself.
"Start living a new life. Make it a better life. This can make you think about what kind of life you've been living, and what kind of life you want to have."Many people I know came to the hospital, really, really sick with AIDS -- really, really advanced -- because they didn't know. They came to the hospital, to the emergency room, and that's when they found out. They had to live, sometimes for months, in the hospital to recover.
What advice would you give somebody who just found out that they were positive?
To just take it and don't stop. Start living a new life. Make it a better life. This can make you think about what kind of life you've been living, and what kind of life you want to have. How you want to live. Because this thing makes you think. And maybe put your feet on the ground.
Esmeralda, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
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