My name is Rocio* and I’m 31 years old. I grew up in Asuncion and during my childhood I lived with strangers because my mom had to work. At the age of 22, I met a guy I fell in love with and we started dating. We lived together at his mom’s place in the countryside for three years. One day, he told me about a certain sickness he had but was never clear about what it was. I asked him if it was cancer, leukemia, or something of that sort, but he denied all of them. Later on, in 2000, I got sick and they told me that I had Acute Pneumonia and that I needed to be hospitalized, but I did not go.

After a year of living together, my boyfriend started to mistreat me and told me that I would never be happy. He then got sick; he had high fever for 15 days and he was diagnosed with Meningitis. Looking for a solution for his health, his mom took him to Brazil, from where he was sent back to Asuncion, to the Tropical Medicine Insitute (LACIMET). I was astonished, since I knew what it meant to be taken to that hospital; that is where patients with AIDS go.

While he was at the hospital, I kept living at his parents’ place, where I had lots of problems. His parents wanted to recognize our son as their own and there were many other problems; all I wanted to do is get out of there. When I finally did leave, I went back to Asuncion to my mother’s house and finally finished the paperwork to recognize my son as my own, he was already 7 months old.

Then, thinking that my partner needed me, I went to look for him at the hospital. It was a Sunday, September 10, I arrived at 9am and asked the doctor about him. I was told that he wasn’t at the hospital anymore. I kept looking for him until another doctor gave me the news. He explained to me that he had died that same day, around 5am, just a few hours before I got to the hospital. I felt so bad and started crying. What hurt me so much is that his parents didn’t tell me anything even though they were with him.

I poured my heart out with my mom and told her about my doubts of patients being admitted to LACIMET, that they are people living with AIDS. My mother tried to calm me down saying that at that institute they also treat people with other sicknesses. I couldn’t find peace of mind and I told her that I wanted to know the truth so I can prepare myself for what’s to come. She told me, no matter what, she would support me. She knew that the sickness is only transmitted through blood or sexual relations, and it’s not contagious.

After a week of my partner’s death, his mom called me to tell me about it. We met in a chapel the next day where she told me that he had a terrible infection and it had to do with HIV/AIDS. She blamed me for it, saying that I had brought this sickness to him. This hurt me very much and I told her that he warned me before about a sickness without specifying what it was. After that, they made my life impossible; they kicked me out of their house – but asked that I not take my son from them.

I went back to Asuncion with my son and I saw the same doctor who treated my ex-partner, wanting to clear my doubts about what sickness affected him. At first the doctor didn’t want to give me that information because he didn’t know me. I had to explain to him that I had the right to know what he died of, because I was his partner. The doctor, then, checked his records and told me that he had died of Tuberculous Meningitis. I also was told to take the Test ELISA to find out if I also had HIV. The first test came out positive. I wanted to know what HIV was but the doctor told me that the second test might come out OK. I also did the Western Blot, which also came out positive. Then, a doctor told me that I was living with HIV, and that I had to take care of myself and recommended that I take medication so that I’d live longer. I took up the courage to ask what HIV meant, and there he told me that I had AIDS. I was so surprised and felt that my world was crumbling apart, but at the same time I was a little ready to take on the news since I already suspected this. I was so thankful that I had my mom’s support. I also talked with a psychologist who knew how to orient me very well. All this kept me calm, but I questioned once again what my future would bring: “What can I do? I have 2 kids and I had to fight for them.”

On the other hand, I started looking for revenge against men. I started having sexual relationships with many men, it didn’t matter with whom. So I got pregnant again. I didn’t continue my treatment because I didn’t care about anything; as if I was looking for an infected son or hoping he wouldn’t be born. When he was born, I looked at him and regretted the attitude I had against him. But as a result of my behavior, my son and I were diagnosed with Syphilis. We were admitted into the hospital and the doctor of the shift didn’t know I had HIV. We completed the treatment for Syphilis and were discharged from the hospital. They tested my son for HIV but it came out nonreactive (negative). The time I was in the hospital was very difficult for me. We suffered so much, we didn’t even have food and were without the support of my son’s father. In spite of it all, we recuperated in 2 weeks and left the hospital and went to live with my mother again. When my son turned one, I went with him to PRONASIDA, and told the pediatrician about our situation. I was scolded for having the child through normal birth and breastfeeding him. They did blood tests on him, which turned out negative. They did it again five more times, but they all turned out negative, of which made me very happy and relieved.

Since my other ex-partner didn’t know I had his child, I went to his work to tell him. By then, my child was already two years old. My ex-partner didn’t believe me and asked me to bring the child to get to know him. When I took my son to him, he was already with his new partner and some coworkers he had asked to help him see if the child looked like him. The very first moment they saw our child, the people around us saw the similarities in them and said that a DNA test was not even necessary. He picked our son up, kissed him and gave him lots of affection. His partner got mad and they argued since he wanted to support us, but she wouldn’t permit it. In spite of that, he supported us and said that he didn’t want to abandon his child. And that’s what he did and he still does to this day. Through the doctor’s order he had to take the Test ELISA, which turned out negative.

It is now 3 years since I met the partner who I live with now; he doesn’t have HIV. The first 5 months we were together, I didn’t tell him that I had the virus, but one day he followed me to see where I was going while I was on my way to PRONASIDA. One Saturday, he asked me to dine out with him. That night he told me that he wanted to know something and asked me to be honest. I decided to tell him the truth so that way he can make his own decision and do as he wished and continue his life without me. I thought that he didn’t deserve to be with a woman like me. I was sick and with AIDS he’d suffer so much with me. I confessed to him that I had been with HIV for seven years now. He was so surprised and was quiet in his thoughts for a moment. Later he told me that he would support me because he cared for and loved me so much. The next day we talked to ALTO REFUGIO’s director, who gave us a lot of advice. My partner promised the director that he would support me in good and in bad times. And he has been fulfilling this promise with so much love and responsibility!

I want to thank God for giving me so many chances to change my wrong ways and that today I have life and strength to keep fighting for my kids. I thank Him for a man who supports me, as well as a mom who is always there to give me a helping hand.

It’s been 10 years now since I was infected with HIV; I have a good level of defense (CD4 700/mm3). This way I live a  normal lifestyle, I feel so good, and I haven’t been getting sick and to this day I haven’t been hospitalized again. I also thank ALTO REFUGIO, because I feel at home there and I can share with many people and receive counseling.

Today I know that revenge is not good and that one can continue living a full life with this sickness.

And this message is for you:

Please don’t discriminate people living with this sickness! But, above all, I want to tell you not to follow the same road I took, in stead…

Value your life!

*changed name

Note: illustrative image.



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