My story begins on December 6, 1996 when my daughter arrived in Los Angeles traveling from Guatemala. She was 5 months pregnant at that time. The very next day she went to the clinic to get all of her prenatal tests done. She had taken an HIV antibody test in Guatemala only three months earlier. That HIV test result was negative. She could have declined to take it again at the clinic here in the U.S., but she decided to take it again anyway, since she believed she would test HIV negative.
On December 21st she went back for her test results. At 4:00 pm she called me at work. She was crying so hard and she was extremely emotionally upset because the HIV/AIDS test came out positive.
Protect the Baby
We were afraid that the baby might already be HIV infected too! As it turned out, it was a good thing that my daughter took the test again, because with early detection we could work with the doctors to protect the baby from becoming infected. She went to the UCLA Care clinic and got specialized prenatal care for women with HIV. She was very closely monitored and was given medicine to prevent HIV transmission to the baby. Thank goodness for UCLA and thank goodness that my granddaughter did not contract HIV. She was born healthy on February 28, 1996.
As a mother and grandmother, at that time I was worried about many things. Would my daughter be able to care for herself and her daughter? Would I be raising another child at my age? Would I have to take care of a sick daughter and a grandbaby? Would I get HIV? What would the other family members think? How would they treat my daughter?
I didn't know anything about HIV and neither did my daughter. We were scared, confused and actually in shock. But thanks to the UCLA clinic and the kindhearted people who treated her, we were able to get advice, referrals, and information about support groups and other services provided by AIDS organizations. With these services, she learned how to cope with her HIV status and I learned how to cope with it as well.
I remember one agency that helped us. Tuesday's Child provided essential things for my granddaughter until she was two years old. It was a tremendous help to get formulas and diapers and so many other expensive necessities.
My daughter wanted to give back to the community in return for the help that she has received. She started to work as a volunteer with some of the AIDS agencies. Through becoming a volunteer, many doors opened for her. Then she had the opportunity to attend classes with Planned Parenthood where she learned all about HIV/AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and many other things. Being intelligent and bilingual gave her the opportunity to learn as well as teach. She did many speaking engagements in front of small and large audiences on various health topics.
The story of how she became HIV infected and how she came to terms with the disease, was chosen for a community play. The play has been used as an HIV/AIDS prevention learning tool. She also played a role in the actual stage production.
Being a mother with a daughter who has become HIV infected is sometimes difficult. At first I was hurting, very very upset and confused about what I was to do. I decided to let her know that no matter what happened, I will always try to help her unconditionally. Of course, we have had arguments, our ups and downs, but still I will give her my support for as long as I live. I believe that she knows how much my husband and I care for her and our granddaughter.
My daughter heard about Women Alive through a friend. She heard they had a position for a Treatment Advocate. She put an application in for the job. Since she had learned so much about HIV, treatments for AIDS, and available resources all over Los Angeles county; she was found to be the most qualified of the people who were interviewed for the position, and she was hired. She felt very happy because now she could help people like her who had become infected with HIV and she was trained to help them with all different kinds of life's problems. Her passion is to educate individuals and communities who may not perceive themselves to be at risk and about how to protect themselves and prevent the spread of HIV.
It has been four years since she found out that she was infected. For now she is doing well, working, teaching and taking care of her daughter who is four years old.
Four years ago, I was worried about my husband's feelings. I didn't know how he would cope with the situation or how he would treat my daughter. I should have known that he would be very supportive and understanding. Today, he is a very loving and caring Grandpa to his granddaughter and there is a special bond in our family.
I hope that this story helps other families to accept their loved ones who may have HIV infection. It's not their fault that they became infected, and their families are not at risk of getting HIV from them. Our loved ones with HIV need the support and love that only families can give. Be kind to them, because we do not know how long they will be here with us. We need to cherish all the good times we can have together. I also hope that with the new studies about HIV/AIDS, the government research effort will result in finding the cure for AIDS. I hope it happens soon for our loved ones and for the sake of future generations of women and girls.
I want to share with you, the readers, that I am proud of my daughter. She is confident and brave to disclose her status and encourage people to go forward.