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This Positive Life: An Interview With Wanda Hernandez

March 1, 2011

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And so, you did ever confront him after you were diagnosed?

No, I didn't confront the person because I felt that the person didn't really care about his quality of life. He should have known better than to remove the protection. And I didn't trust this person with my information, and I was a brand new case, I didn't know what to expect.

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I did actually run into this person, unfortunately, twice, and I was like, "Wow, this world is so big and I just run into this person." But when I did run into that person, that person wanted to pursue a relationship, not knowing of my diagnoses or my status. But I was really so disgusted, so no I never approached him or told him what the deal was.

And why do you think it was him?

I know what I do and who I was with. And it was six months after the fact of me being with him.

And you never told him?

I never told him. I just needed to learn more for myself about what it was. I didn't think he was a person to talk to at the time. And I just felt so uncomfortable and disgusted by him, that I didn't even want to look at the person.

And so how did you even deal with disclosing to your family?

"But it was shocking that my sister actually understood and that it came out of her own mouth to say that people living with HIV/AIDS can lead a normal life."

Disclosing to my family took me a little while. Of course it was something new. The very first person I told was my sister, who I thought because she is professional, was going to be a certain way. She was in a field; she works with low income people and people in the community, so she knows about these diseases and things that are going on. But it was shocking that my sister actually understood and that it came out of her own mouth to say that people living with HIV/AIDS can lead a normal life. She was the first person, the rest of my family it took me a while to be able to say it to them. And not because I was embarrassed, but because a lot of people are not educated on the subject and refused to get educated on the subject because they felt that it wasn't going to touch home.

It took me two years to tell my mom. And the reason being was because before being diagnosed, I just had lost a brother to asthma, so my mom was kind of still grieving for my older brother, so it took me awhile to tell her. But finally I did and she took it very well. I didn't make it sound like, of course like I said there is life after HIV/AIDS, it's up to the person to continue to fight to live and come out ahead.

You cannot let that take you down. So once I told my mom, I also waited to tell my daughter because when I was diagnosed in 1995, my daughter was only 15. So I told her once she turned 18, which I thought was a better age for her to have a better understanding of the subject. She was very understanding of it as well; of course she doesn't like it when I get arrested for doing actions...

I am sure I wouldn't like my mom getting arrested either.

For a good cause and she is very proud of what I do. I just love what I do with a passion, just because I think we need to step up and fight for more justice in these communities.

Do you think that in communities of color, there is a lot more stigma around HIV/AIDS or an inability to want to talk about it?

"There should be more leaders and people speaking about the subject. And I think that we would have a better chance at leading the fight."

I think that stigma has a lot to do with low-income communities and communities of color. Being able to express how you feel, just say listen this is what's up. Society plays a very big role on that. Unfortunately, because of that there should be more leaders and people speaking about the subject. And I think that we would have a better chance at leading the fight.

Where is your family from?

I am one hundred percent black Puerto Rican. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I have Tahino heritage. I was actually the type of person who went back and forth from my country and New York. I was educated in both countries. My first few years, Kindergarten, first, second grade in Puerto Rico, to come back to New York for third and fourth grade, high school over there and finally finished college over here.

I love to read, write, and write poetry around societal issues. My passion right now is, besides leading the fight against AIDS, is also someday to write my own personal book, which I am working on right now.

Oh an autobiography! That would be great. There are not that many Latinas writing about HIV from a first-person perspective. I think I know of one.

Yeah, there are not too many. It's my dream.

Well good luck!

Thank you.

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