things that matter

She’s Been HIV Positive For Nearly 20 Years And Her Story Is Proof That Life Is Still Possible

There are hundreds of thousands of Latinxs living with HIV in the U.S. Alexa Rodriguez is one of them. The undocumented immigrant from El Salvador was 21 years old and living in Texas when she was diagnosed. It was a discovery that she tells FIERCE came as a complete shock. Particularly because the person who gave it to her was her boyfriend, whom she trusted. He had initiated the idea of forgoing condoms during sex, despite the fact he secretly knew of his own status.

Of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., 220,000 are Latinx.

According to DoSomething.org, more than a third of the Latino population diagnosed with HIV receive detection testing too late. Within a year of becoming diagnosed, their illness typically advances to AIDS.

Since her initial diagnosis in 1998, Rodriguez has managed to maintain her HIV status through a careful medical regiment. It’s a positive note that she had never imagined possible the day her test results came back positive.

“The first thing [I thought when I was diagnosed] was ‘dead,'” Rodriguez says. “I mean, I had no information about it. I felt betrayed by the person I loved.”

For Rodriguez, the news was so shocking and devastating that she decided to return to her home country of El Salvador so she could prepare for her death.

Twenty-years later, however, she’s back in the U.S. and living her life to the fullest.

Fear, discrimination and societal stigmas surrounding the virus can increase the likelihood of being infected with or transmitting HIV.

Studies have revealed that people who suspect they have HIV, or who have been diagnosed with it, will often avoid seeking treatment, counseling and further testing out of fear of having their status found out. Undocumented Latinxs are also less likely to seek treatment because of concerns related to arrest and deportation.

For Rodriguez, these fears became magnified the moment she received her diagnosis. She admits that she left the clinic as soon as she learned about her status, and didn’t wait to hear about treatment because she didn’t want her friends, who were waiting for her, to suspect anything.

Those fears were heightened once again years later, in 2009, when she chose to return to the U.S. while seeking asylum from police officers and gang members who had abused her.

Fortunately, many Latinas living in the U.S with HIV or AIDS have stories that have not been marked with a tragic ending.

Almost twenty years have passed since AIDS was declared as a “severe and ongoing health crisis” in the Latino community. For years after the virus’s discovery in 1981, medical experts and researchers viewed it as a death sentence. Thanks to medical advancements, these days a person with HIV can live a lifespan similar to an average, non-infected individual.

This is certainly the case for Rodriguez, who has come to view her life and story as one worth sharing. These days, she uses her experience as a trans woman living with HIV for two decades to work as an HIV counselor and to advocate for trans women with the Trans Latin@ Coalition. In 2012 she was granted a green card, and this month she’ll fill out her application for U.S. citizenship. Her HIV status can no longer legally affect her citizenship.

She admits the process of coming to terms with her diagnosis was possible because of the many people she saw living with HIV and thriving. For her, perseverance has been essential to survival.

“There is a hope. There is a second chance to live,” she says. “Find someone in your community, someone you trust. Don’t suffer in silence.”


Read: She Remembers Feeling A Lump In Her Breast When She Showered And Thought It Was Because Of Her Period. Weeks Later She Was Diagnosed With Cancer

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Are You A Victim Of Abuse? Use This Checklist To Help You Determine The Truth

Calladitas No More

Are You A Victim Of Abuse? Use This Checklist To Help You Determine The Truth

There are three ways that abuse can be identified. By the way your partner treats you physically, by the way they treat you emotionally, and by how you feel about the relationship. This checklist of twenty signs of abuse is one tool that you can use to see if you, or someone you know, is a victim of abuse. And remember, more resources for dealing with abuse can be found by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 799 7233.

1. They have grabbed you and refused to let go.

gabkaphoto / Instagram

This falls into the category of physical abuse. No-one should grab you to make you feel threatened and unsafe. No-one.

2. They have pulled your hair.

Instagram: @theerinblythedavis

This is another form of physical abuse. Sure, a bit of hair pulling in the act of passion is fine. But when it happens as part of an argument, or when your partner is deliberately trying to hurt you or make you feel threatened, that is abuse.

3. They have thrown things at you and/or destroyed your belongings.

Instagram: @beatfreak1996

One way your significant other may try to control you is through your belongings. Throwing things at you and destroying your belongings is designed to hurt you physically and emotionally. Threatening to do so also falls under this category of behavior, too.

4. They have left you with bruises, black eyes, bleeding, and/or broken bones.

Instagram: @veeegooose

While abuse doesn’t necessarily have to leave marks on your body, a sure sign of physical abuse in your relationship is when your partner does leave marks. Research shows that once it happens the first time, a “threshold” of sorts has been crossed, and an abuser is more likely to hurt their partner again.

5. They have threatened to hurt or kill you.

Instagram: @raquelitt

It may not seem like abuse, since there are no physical marks left from a threat to hurt or kill you. However, these threats are still part of the arsenal of tools that abusers use. How? Because these threats are designed to control your behavior, and make you feel powerless. Abuse in a relationship is about the abuser gaining and maintaining power, and death threats are a way of emotionally controlling you.

6. They have threatened to take your children away or harm them.

Instagram: @stephaniemaurasanchez

Even if you have children together, children shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in your relationship. Even more importantly, your children’s safety is non-negotiable: no partner of yours should threaten it. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to children. Pets can also be used to manipulate and control you in a relationship.

7. They have forced you to have sex.

Instagram: @jennylikesjewellery

Sex is not a “duty” to be fulfilled in a loving, equal relationship. Nor should your partner guilt trip or manipulate you into participating in sex acts after you have refused sex. Consent needs to be freely given! It doesn’t matter how long the two of you have been together. Otherwise, it’s classed as sexual assault.

8. They try to control you and treat you like a child.

Instagram: @silvia_almanza

Abusive relationships are about control and power. Part of treating you like a child is making you feel like you don’t have any control in the relationship, or even your life, so that you continue to stay and endure the abuse.

9. They make you feel like you need permission to make decisions or go somewhere.

Instagram: @kreeturefeature

This applies when you feel like you have to text at every moment to update your partner about where you are. And when you can’t spend time with friends or family without getting permission from your partner. This is because abusers commonly try to isolate their partner from other, platonic relationships with other people.

10. They try to take complete control of the finances and how you spend money.

Instagram: @loudmouthbruja

Controlling how money is earned and spent is known as financial abuse. People suffering from this type of abuse are commonly denied access to money by partners for doing simple tasks like grocery shopping. Or, sometimes the abuser decides whether and when their partner is allowed to work.

11. They cannot admit to being wrong.

Instagram: @abs_ter

Part of being in a respectful and loving relationship is being able to say sorry and to admit fault. An abusive partner refuses to apologise, because doing so would threaten their position of power in their relationship.

12. They accuse you of things that you know are not true.

Instagram: @estephaniaabarca

This is about control, and manipulating you. After all, if you’re spending your time trying to prove your innocence, then you’re not going to spend your time planning to leave the relationship, are you?

13. They do not take responsibility for their behavior.

Instagram: @lu.pazmi

The reality is, it’s not too much to ask someone to take responsibility for their behavior – even more so when it’s someone you’re in a relationship with. However, your partner doesn’t take responsibility for their behavior because doing so would threaten their position of power in the relationship.

14. They use “The Silent Treatment” to get their way.

Instagram: @yappaririri

Chances are you may have experienced “The Silent Treatment” before, in elementary school. And that’s where that behavior should stay. An equal, loving relationship is not built on one person using silence to manipulate the other person into conceding a point.

15. They make subtle threats or negative remarks about you.

Instagram: @noshophotography

Of course, there’s always room for some friendly sledging in a loving, respectful relationship. But, it turns into abuse when your partner does this on a regular basis to frighten, or control you. It’s possible they may even pass it off as a “joke”, or say that you’re “overreacting”. But again, if you’re in a loving relationship, then your partner should respect the fact that you’re hurt by a “joke”. They should not continue to make these types of comments.

16. You feel scared about how your significant other will act.

Instagram: @erikakardol

Repeat after us: you should have no reason to fear your partner in a loving, respectful relationship. You should have no reason to fear your partner in a loving, respectful relationship.

17. You feel that you can help your partner to change their behavior.

Instagram: @amnesia.r

But, only if you have changed something about yourself first.

18. You watch your behavior carefully so that you do not start a conflict in your relationship.

Instagram: @cmirandads

An abuser does not abuse all of the time. They maintain a cycle of abuse in the relationship. Things go from being tense, where you feel like you have to watch your own actions, to an incident which involves verbal, emotional, financial and physical abuse. Then, your partner attempts reconciliation or denies the abuse occurred, and the relationship goes into a calm stage. However, tensions will begin to build before long, starting the cycle once again.

19. You stay with your partner because you are afraid of what they would do if you broke up.

Instagram: @msstefniv

In other words, you feel trapped in your relationship because of your partner’s current, or potential, behavior. This can range from hurting you, your kids, your pets, your friends, and your family. Or, destroying your belongings, compromising access to your finances, or hurting themselves.

20. They don’t pass “The No Test”

Instagram: @kaitlyn_laurido

“The No Test” is pretty simple. Observe what happens the next time you tell your partner “no”. This could be in response to being asked out on a date, or maybe doing them a simple favor. Disappointment is a normal response to being told “no.”  However, pure outrage, violence, and/or emotional manipulation is not a reasonable response, and may indicate an abusive relationship.

If you feel that you are experiencing an abusive relationship, please seek help. Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 799 7233 for assistance. Please take care if you feel that your internet or mobile phone device use is being monitored.

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

things that matter

A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

“If you’re having sex, you’ll likely contract HPV at some point in your life.” That is how one gynecologist explained the sexually transmitted diseases to me, which completely freaked me out. Even though human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus contracted through sexual intercourse, it doesn’t make it less scary when you realize that it’s related to 150 viruses and can lead to cancer for both men and women. While there are vaccines available to prevent the spread of HPV to a broader age group than in previous years, we are finally closer to finding a cure.

A group of primarily female Mexican scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute cured their patients of HPV.

Twitter/@StephDenisse

The team of researchers, led by Dr. Eva Ramos Gallegos (pictured above), treated 420 patients from Veracruz and Oaxaca, and 29 from Mexico City. They used “photodynamic therapy” which “is a treatment that involves using a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light to treat different areas of the body” according to their report.

The doctors found extraordinary results through their method of treatment that led to cure 100 percent of the people that had HPV. They also cured 64.3 percent of people infected with HPV that had cancerous cells, and 57.2 percent of people that had cancerous cells without the HPV virus. That last result could mean that a cure for cancer is not far behind.

“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Dr. Gallegos told Radio Guama.

People on social media ecstatically hailed the finding by the Mexicana researchers.

We highly doubt President Trump will ever mention this achievement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to comment on this remarkable finding.

While there’s more testing that will inevitably take place, we will have to wait and see how long it takes for other researchers and scientists to catch on to their method of treatment.

The fact that a woman-led team discovered this cure is something we should all be applauding.

Hopefully, their research will get more funding so they can further test patients and help educate others about their process.

According to the CDC,  79 million Americans, primarily teens and people in the early 20s, are infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. The way to prevent contracting HPV is by getting the vaccine — available for males and females — and by using condoms. However, you can still contract HPV because HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not adequately protect against getting HPV.

READ: Here Are A Handful Of Reasons Why We Need To Talk To Latinx Kids About S-E-X

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