Why I Want to Show My Face After 20 Years
January 26, 2011
This article was cross-posted from "A Girl Like Me," a program of The Well Project.
I am ready to show my face for many reasons! After the cycles that we go through with HIV/AIDS ... the denial, realizing I was not dying after all ... came the shame and hiding. I also started with the lies ... that I believe came from my mother trying to protect me, saying tell everyone I have something else (another illness like lupus etc etc)! Well after so much hiding, lying, the SHAME! Something really deep happened before 2011 came. My partner's sister passed away from cancer and this was so terrible :(. I thought to myself, and asked myself, WHY can't I say I have HIV?? Why is it that anyone can say they have cancer or diabetes or any other health condition and I am so scared to disclose openly without having that fear?
It then, with a combination of other things, made me feel it is time to show my face to take the stigma away! We are not criminals ... I have seen from a baby to an 80 year old lady that are living with the virus! It can happen to anyone ... it takes only one time of having unprotected sex for you to be exposed! I am tired of feeling like I am a fugitive, a delinquent, a person in constant fear of people that I don't want to know finding out about my status.
I know the stigma has to do with lack of education, fear of the unknown and because HIV is linked to sex ... and this is taboo. But we are all sexual beings, and as I said, it only takes ONE time of unprotected sex to be exposed! Along with the other ways we know about contracting the disease.
Another of the things that has me very disturbed is the way people, especially young people, that have minimized this illness to NOTHING! They just think, "oh, if I get infected I just take some pill and I will live a long life." NO, it is not that simple! This is a hard disease! I know we as positive people have to show strength, but at the same time, we have to be realistic ... this illness or condition is no joke.
HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence anymore but it is a LIFE SENTENCE! You get no breaks ... unless you have the mutation that does not allow HIV to damage your immune system. So NO! It's not that simple ... please get tested, protect yourself and little by little try to educate those around you.
Another thing that has me very sad because of this way of thinking, is that HIV is being forgotten ... although there are many people fighting. We need to have that passion that the people before us had! That Spirit of Passion! We have the responsibility to educate those who are not educated on this matter and help those who just started this journey!
I know that some may think "well, it took her 20 years to get to this point" ... and this is true. Although I have been talking in public schools, educational classes in UM Jackson Memorial Hospital here in Miami, as a volunteer in the Red Cross ... I always played it safe! but not anymore :)
This is how I feel ... If I get discriminated by anyone because I chose to come out to the whole world and show my face out there, it is their loss! That includes some in my own family or friends that don't know! Because I am not a CRIMINAL!
Love and light as always -Maria-
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This article was provided by The Well Project
. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
Comment by: Jennifer
Mon., Oct. 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm UTC
Just beautiful Maria! I wish that I had your courage and I admire your strength! I hope to someday find the strength to out myself.
Comment by: Mary Anne
Wed., May. 4, 2011 at 6:34 pm UTC
I too have been HIV for coming up to 22 years now and I honestly can't remember how I remained so strong and vigil all these years. I asked GOD two things in my lifetime, in 1990 that he take my daughter since she was really never all mine to begin with, and if she were to live in pain and/or suffering, since that is when I found out I had this virusl I asked again under a starlit sky in the Poconos on New Year's Eve 2002, my 39th birthday and midnight wish, for a man that would love me unconditionally until the day I die, for a love of my very own. Four months later I accidentally became pregnant with my Son. He's negative and so is his father still and all the men that I have laid down with but not before some were too cruel and sometimes almost unbearable, at least the ones that I wanted were. The stigma slowly encaged me in my own self-made cell until recently. Thank you Maria for allowing me to show my face even though I still suffer from doing so. I walk in faith and still and always for a lust for life and a message to relay while being set free to be all that I can still be pushing 50. I am a Mentor a Mother, an Author and HIV+ :)
Stay blessed and wonderful Maria, its a pleasure and honor to by your friend, if even virtually. @~
Comment by: Maria
Sat., Mar. 5, 2011 at 5:02 pm UTC
Ty Everyone!! I can relate to everyone here :)! we will break down the stigma one day at a time! alfred you can find me on facebook..or anyone else that wants to add me ..my name there is maria hiv or by email firstname.lastname@example.org! everyone be blessed!
Comment by: Gwen
Fri., Feb. 18, 2011 at 9:57 pm UTC
I believe living with the stigma and the fear of someone finding out I am HIV+ is harder than living with this damn disease. I am a 46 yr. old woman, HIV+ for 12 years and the response from people that find out I am HIV+ is unbelief unbelievable. They want to go and get tested right away just because they were around me. Damn idiots! I will one day come out and be proud of what I am and how I handle this disease but for now I live with only Family and close friends knowing. To all who are fighting this disease, Stay strong and healthy.
Comment by: liz
Fri., Feb. 18, 2011 at 12:08 am UTC
kudos for showing your face. If we can do this world wide we can fight stigma in a mighty way. I am yet to come to that stage but i know i will show my face too one of these days.
Comment by: Mike
Thu., Feb. 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm UTC
Such a tough thing to deal with. I'm hetero also (like Rhonda), and it so hard to say those words. Especially if there is some kind of romantic attraction going on. I fight the self esteem issue a lot, letting outside opinion shape how I see myself. This stigma we all see is very hard to get past since much of it is driven by ignorance of the virus and how it is spread. Good blog!
Comment by: Maria Mejia
Tue., Feb. 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm UTC
Ty everyone for the responses!! I hope by sharing my raw thoughts I can help someone :) xoxo love and light!
Comment by: Carolyn (Silent)
(Oak brook ill)
Fri., Feb. 11, 2011 at 12:42 am UTC
I truly injoyed your wonderful words of strength and courage ,
I to face this fear of shame and fear, as if I was a leper or deadly contagious animal. One day I to will come out.
Thank you for lending to all of us your hope and inspiration.
Comment by: John-Manuel Andriote
Thu., Feb. 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm UTC
Thank you for sharing your story, Maria! You are a brave and beautiful lady. It seems many of us HIV+ guys in the gay community have forgotten how much courage it takes to be open about our status. Now that medication can help us to live--if we're lucky--without complications or even symptoms, I have heard many stories about gay men being closeted about their poz status. They forget what we told the world: "Silence=Death." If we don't speak out, the stigma festers and oppresses.
Two things I've found to say to anyone who "blames" me for having HIV: (1) HIV is a virus, not a moral condition; and (2) Getting HIV takes "two to tango," but diabetes only takes one which seems to suggest that person alone is responsible for choosing not to protect her/himself.
Bottom line for me, though: We're all human dealing with fragile bodies and not always making the right choices about a lot of things for a lot of reasons. We can forgive ourselves and refuse to accept anyone's judgment of us but our own. There is real strength and peace in that.
Comment by: Rhonda
(Oklahoma City, OK)
Thu., Feb. 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm UTC
Very well put. I totally agree. I am a 46yr old heterosexual woman, and I am so tired of the stigma. I'm tired of trying to be hush, hush about it. It does make me feel like a criminal, or dirty. I do tell people, and all my friends and family know, but I find it is something that is not talked about, especially with my family. My parents even told me that I shouldn't tell anyone unless I absolutley had to. They say, that is protecting me from the cruelty of people. I understand that, but at the same time, I am tired of whispering it to people, that ask me what my illness is, and looking around to make sure no one else heard. So many people have no idea how close they are to getting it. Like you said, all it takes is one time. I just also happen to be one of the honest ones that tell. How many are there out there that don't even tell, and go ahead and sleep with someone. I feel like I get punished for telling. I am no different from anyone else, it is just that one of the times I chose to have unprotected sex, impacted my life forever. It could very well, be anyone. I think people just choose to look at people with hiv, as dirty or abnormal, when they could be just one step away from it themselves.
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: milady
(New York City)
Mon., Sep. 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm UTC
I am a 48yr old woman, I was diagnose in 1995. i got infected from my husband of 25 yr. At that time we were in denial, especially him. he got infected from unprotected sex with a woman, he cheat a lot on me. I don,t understand still how come I am still with him.I suffer domestic,mental abuse during our first few years. after he was gravely ill he change a lot and still regrets infecting me. the problem is that when we got together he has two children. I rise them like my own plus we had a son together.the problem that I'm facing now is the none of my children knows my status, I am afraid to tell them. because they will hate their father for making me sick. I been diagnose with full blown aids a year ago, but been more sick and hospitalized them him. I have total hip replacement 3 months ago due to AVN, spinal fussion for a fractured in the spine 2 years ago, ,fibromyalgia,osteospenia,acid lactosis,suffer form depresion, immsonnia, shingles 3 years ago,herpes,HPV.neuropathy.
I am sorry to sound so tiring, but this is one way for me to escape the anxiety that I feel inside and not be able to talk to anybody about it.
I have brothers and sisters but I have not tell anybody about my Aids. I feel that if I tell them they will blame my husband. I know is his fault but, that will not solve anything.
in the meantime I have appeal to SSI,apply and reapply without any success that's one more reason to make me so frustrated. I used to work and have my own money until my spinal fussion. it looks like everything is against me. I've been a loyal wife never cheated on him,good mother, working women and I am all hopeless.
thanks to anyone who cares to read this
Comment by: noor
Wed., Feb. 9, 2011 at 4:21 am UTC
i want to see my face after 20 years
Comment by: Drew(Sydney AUS)
(Sydney , AUS)
Mon., Feb. 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm UTC
I was diagnosed in 2007 and have only told a handful of gay friends about my status. I have not told my family. You are so true about the issue of Stigma. HIV has a STIGMA why ??? Because its 1)its sexual 2) in the Western World its seen very much still as a Gay Man's issue.
I think 2011 will be my year to break down this stigma and inform my family about my illness.
Thanks once again for a very interesting Blog.
Comment by: Alfred
Mon., Feb. 7, 2011 at 11:58 am UTC
I'm a 24 year HIV+ gay latino & I am glad you wrote this blog. I am publicly out about my HIV status as well. I feel as if latinos are being forgotten in the fight against HIV/AIDS, maybe it's because some are ashame. I don't know but we have to change that. I also work in the HIV/AIDS community, maybe one day I can see you speak on HIV/AIDS :-) God bless you Maria
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Time to Show My Face and Take the Stigma Away
Maria T. Mejia
I am a Colombian female who lives in Miami, Florida. I've been positive for 20 years. Although almost all my life I've been in long-term relationships with HIV-negative men, I am happily married to a woman who is wonderful and caring. We have been together almost three years and she is HIV negative. I have no children but we will look into having! I am an activist, a peer educator, a caregiver. I volunteered for the Red Cross in education for the Hispanic HIV community and also the American community. I was a pre- and post-test counselor. I have spoken in many conferences and done a lot of outreach in the community, especially in the schools for prevention and education. It is part of my everyday life to educate everyone I can on this subject. Being HIV positive is nothing to be ashamed about! We are strong women, and we will take away all the stigmas slowly but we have to open up.
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