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First Person


I was diagnosed with HIV in June 2002, when I went for a pregnancy test at my gynecologist's office. Both my HIV test and pregnancy test came back positive, but when the doctor said I was HIV-positive I could barely believe his words. I first told my husband that we were going to have a baby. He was excited'until I started to cry uncontrollably. He asked if there was something wrong with our baby. I told him I had HIV, and he went crazy. The next day we went together for his HIV test, and he was negative. It turns out I had been infected by a previous partner who either didn't know he had HIV or didn't tell me so. I felt devastated. A couple of months later my husband and I separated. During my pregnancy I learned a lot about the virus that was going to be a part of my life forever. I attended support groups and eventually delivered my second child, a healthy baby boy. HIV has become a part of me, but it has not taken over my life, because I have learned to survive'most importantly'for my children, who need me. I also have dealt with knowing that I should have been more careful in protecting myself from HIV infection. Unfortunately, as women, protection is a difficult challenge, especially in relationships where men feel that wearing condoms means that something is either wrong with you or with him. Many people in our society also still think that if a woman has HIV, she's a sex worker or a drug addict. I'm neither of those. Today, I focus on educating women about their risk for HIV and informing them that whether they're a housewife or only have one partner, they still are at risk for contracting the virus. HIV doesn't discriminate, and you never know who has it. The best thing to do is always be safe'no matter whom you're with. Norma works as a treatment advocate at a Los Angeles women's AIDS organization.

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