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This Positive Life: An Interview With Wanda Hernandez

March 1, 2011

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Have you come across men who feel that because you are HIV positive that you should be grateful that anyone wants to be with you?


No. I have come across for the first time one who I thought understood and felt that he is a little afraid. But this is the first one in 16 years to react like that. Partner-wise it's just about being able to keep someone who is willing to be there.

So let's talk about your health care and achievements. You said earlier that your CD4s have been relatively high since you were diagnosed, which is great since you have been living with HIV 16 years. What kind of relationship do you have with your doctor?

I have a really awesome doctor. I have been with him almost as long as I have had the virus. I think that, like friends do, sometimes I don't agree with him. But he is the best at what he does. He is the best at treating patients with HIV/AIDS. I am not going to tell his name because I don't want to disclose too much. But, he is awesome. I mean, I have gotten to the point of fighting with him and then he feels so guilty that when he sees me again he gives me a hug. But my relationship with my doctor is really awesome.

In the early days, when you were first diagnosed, did you seek the help of support groups to help you deal with your diagnosis?

"I have a really awesome doctor. I have been with him almost as long as I have had the virus."

It's funny that you ask that. In the beginning I started doing a couple of groups and unfortunately I felt that because at the time I was still working in corporate America and that I was educated, that I felt that -- as you said to compare, it's like stereotyping -- I felt like I was in a totally different environment. I have never used, but not to discriminate, but I had never used hardcore drugs before, so I felt that I was in a totally different group, in a different time zone.

Are you on medication?

I am on medication now and just to give a quick cap of how well medication has advanced in 1995, I started with 18 pills a day. Today I am one pill a day -- which is Atripla. And that's all it takes is one pill a day and I am good to go.

Back in 1995, when you tested positive, it was right before antiretrovirals. How afraid were you that you were going to die?

I was a bit afraid. Coming from a family -- because my family support is not all that great, I hate to say -- I was afraid, "Wow, I'm dead." But I lifted my head up. I have always been a strong independent Latino woman and so, I decided to fight back. And I just ask those who are newly diagnosed and around now still, let us be an example that there is life after HIV/AIDS.

So you said that when you were diagnosed, that you worked in corporate America. And so when did you leave?

I was diagnosed in 1995 and continued to work until 2001.

And what was that like for you?

It was a little difficult for me to not be able to have someone in my corner.

It's OK. Take your time.

"I can only say that I am stronger today and more positive today because of God and he just needs an angel up there, but he isn't ready for me -- he is preparing for me."

Just being able to have someone to talk to at the time within the work environment. I knew that there were people who would talk like, "She lost so much weight." But I guess that God knows who to pick for his tasks. I can only say that I am stronger today and more positive today because of God and he just needs an angel up there, but he isn't ready for me -- he is preparing for me. But it was hard to work in corporate America and not have anyone to talk to because of the discrimination. I have had people tell me that they have lost their jobs because they have disclosed their status. My neighbor right now used to work for the government until she disclosed and she lost her job.

Even though it's totally illegal to do that, it still happens. I think it's important for people to know that there are all of these laws in place, but that doesn't mean that those laws are being enforced. So you left your job in 2001. What have you been doing? I know that you told me earlier that you went back to school and got your degree.

Like I said before, I decided to fight back and get more educated on the subject and had the pleasure when I was at one of my management groups where I received pantry and legal services, one day I am there and there was this one guy talking about this wonderful organization and how they fight for public policy for people with HIV/AIDS. It's funny, because my friends all say that I have a big mouth and some day it would be good for something. So I got interested in what the guy was saying -- Jared, one of my lead organizers over at Vocal New York.

So I said, "Jared, I am going through the same things that you described. How can I get involved?" And that was it, we clicked. And now I am on the board of directors for Vocal New York, I have done a lot of public speaking and have met a lot of wonderful people. It's my passion. What I do today that keeps me going.

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This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: jennyfer (miami) Wed., Apr. 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm UTC
i truly love this topic althaugh iam negative but i do feel like people need to be open minded and get educated because we all do something stupid that we could have just avoid, but tha's part of life we are only human so we make mistakes dn't judge get envolve help someone picture yourslves, and someone that u care solely about and we need more people like wonda in this world thank you.
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