Gladys: …been living with HIV for more than 15 years…
My name is Gladys Rosa Báez. I grew up with my brother and our single mother. We never lacked care and affection, but we did have financial difficulties. My mother worked day and night to support two children.
I spent most of my childhood trying to help my mother make ends meet, which meant that I was working from an early age. I had a very strict grandmother who taught me to fend for myself and how to cook, clean, sew, etc.
When I was 17 I finally got an opportunity to study tailoring. I liked helping people, but I always thought that I didn’t have what it took. That same year I fell deeply in love with a dashing young man on the police force. He was older than me, but still under 20. The following year we got married, since I was pregnant at the time. My husband always treated me with respect: I was his friend, confidante, and queen of the household.
He loved me and was faithful to me. But when our second child was born, he began to change. Little by little he started verbally abusing me, and later on he became physically aggressive. He never had enough money, which made him edgy and irritable. He didn’t want me to go out and work, so I stayed at home all day. He beat me every day, and I tried to cope with the pain by telling myself, “tomorrow he will change; he will stop beating me.”
When my husband first lived in Encarnación, he would only come to visit every second week. After some time he started rejecting me and he didn’t want to be with me anymore. A couple of months later he took us to live with him in Encarnación. To me it was wonderful; I thought that everything would change and that things would become sorted out, but from that moment on the physical discomfort began: diarrhea, vomiting, and genital warts, among others. I went to see a doctor of natural medicine who sent me for a check-up to a medical doctor in the hospital. Together with my husband and my two children we went back to Asunción. By then our health condition became critical.
My husband was admitted to the hospital and after some analyses we were diagnosed HIV positive. I weighed only 37 kilos (81.5 pounds) and my immune defense had a CD4 cell count of below 185 (CD4 is a type of lymphocyte responsible for the body’s defense). My husband’s situation was a lot worse; his CD4 cell count was 85. During his stay at the hospital I stayed by his side until he was released. We started having medical appointments every 6 months. Once I became ill because I took one of my medications at the wrong hour by accident. I had an attack and we arrived at the hospital just in time. I was taken care of and the staff saved my life.
During my stay at the hospital I met Judith and David, who invited me to Alto Refugio, where I found a home and a new family. I got to know the Lord and I smiled again; I started sharing with others and learned what true friendship means.
Nowadays I’m happy and proud to serve the Lord at the local church I attend, being able to tell others what the Lord has done in my life. I was able to forgive and was healed emotionally. The best gift I received were my husband’s final months of life. We learned about true love in a relationship; before he passed away we could make up for all the lost time and love each other as we never had before. All this could be achieved thanks only to the Lord, but he used David and Judith to bless us.