What does HIV mean to me? I don't know where to start. This is my first time in 32 years to share something like this. My daughters were born in San Francisco in 1983 and 1985. My husband was working in San Francisco as a baker, making beautiful cakes. In 1987, my husband got diagnosed with AIDS or HIV. He decided to move to New Orleans in December 1987 because his family was there. I remember it was snowing in Louisiana. Later, he became really sick. When he went to the hospital, they told us he had pneumonia. He never got better. He was in the hospital for six weeks, and then he died on August 15.
In 1988, my life changed in different ways. My kids were little, and they were asking for their daddy. My husband’s sister-in-law discriminated against me when she invited us to eat. She threw the dishes in the garbage because she was afraid of becoming infected. After I was discriminated against by a friend I knew before I got married, I told our church pastor not to say anything to the congregation about my husband’s illness.
I left Louisiana in 1989 to move back to San Pablo, California with my two small daughters, aged almost 6 and almost 4. In October 1989 I was entering the Bay Bridge from San Francisco when the Loma Prieta earthquake happened. The moment I drove onto the bridge, the platform came down. My girls were with me, and my sister was driving. In that moment, everything changed. We were there for five hours before we made it home to San Pablo. At the time, I thanked God for his mercy after my husband died.
It took me five years to start dating. I was scared to tell people about my HIV status. In 1993 I met a guy. We talked about everything. I told him what I went through and about my status. He accepted me, and we got married. At first everything was going well. I didn't know he was using drugs. He couldn’t hold a job. Sometimes I had health insurance, sometimes I didn't have insurance. Sometimes I took my medicine, sometimes I couldn’t get medicine. In 2003 we separated because he was treating me really badly. He abused me verbally and mentally. He wanted me to have a baby, but I told him I don't want to bring a baby into this world in my condition.
HIV turned my life upside down. People treat you different and don't care about your feelings when you have HIV. There is not much love and understanding for people who are HIV-positive. I once heard someone say that people with HIV are sinners - that's why we're the way we are. I don't ask for pity, only understanding. I didn't ask for this, and no one deserves to be treated like they are nothing.
I don't have many friends. Only my mom, my three sisters, my two daughters, and their husbands know about my HIV-positive status. I don't talk too much about it because I was discriminated against by three people who were supposedly my friends. I don't want to deal with ignorance, but we need to educate people. Now I'm ready to say something and support others in this position.
There have been long years of loneliness without talking about this. I hope my story can help anyone who is in this position to talk about what they’re going through. You're not alone in this.
This article was written by myHIVteam member Maria as part of the Member Spotlight series. Maria is an active and supportive member of myHIVteam and has two daughters.
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