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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.”

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Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

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Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

Separated from her mother for a decade, seventeen-year-old Cindy (who is only being identified by her first name) took a chance last month to see her. Despite her age, a raging pandemic, and the risks of crossing the Mexico–United States border she journeyed from Honduras to see her mother in New York. Her love for her mother was so deep, she was willing to risk everything.

In her mission, Cindy wound up in U.S. immigration facilities where she contracted Covid-19. After three days in a hospital bed in California, Cindy was finally able to contact her mother who had not learned of her daughter’s hospitalization.

Thanks to the help of a doctor who lent her their phone Cindy was able to make the call to her mother, Maria Ana.

“There are backlogs and delays in communication that are really unacceptable,” Maria Ana’s immigration lawyer Kate Goldfinch, who is also the president of the nonprofit Vecina, explained to NBC.

After learning about her daughter’s COVID-19 hospitalization, Maria Ana feared the worst. “Following weeks of anguish and uncertainty, Maria Ana spent most of her nights painting the bedroom she has fixed for Cindy, just ‘waiting for my girl,'” she explained to NBC.

Last Wednesday night, Maria Ana flew to San Diego to be with her daughter after she’d finally recovered from Covid.

At the emotional mother-daughter reunion, Maria Ana assured her daughter “no one else is going to hurt you.”

After Cindy crossed the border, she spent several days in a detention facility in Texas in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. According to NBC “On any given night, Cindy said, she would share two mattresses with about eight other girls. She could shower only every five days in one of the eight showers the facility had to serve 700 girls.”

“It was really bad,” Cindy told the outlet..

Cindy was among almost 13,350 unaccompanied children left in the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS. This last year has seen over 3,715 unaccompanied children at these facilities diagnosed with Covid-19. Worse, there are currently 528 unaccompanied children who have tested positive for Covid-19 and put in medical isolation.

Now, immigration advocates and families are pressing the U.S. government to pick up reunions of children and their families in the United States. Over 80 percent of unaccompanied minors currently in federal custody have family living in the states. According to Goldfinch, “40 percent have parents in the U.S.”

“So we would think that it would be fairly quick and simple to release a child to their own parent. But because of the chaos of the system, the reunification of these kids with their parents is really frustrating and backlogged,” Goldfinch explained, “most frustrating, of course, for the actual children and their parents.”

While Cindy was in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, no one managed to notify Ana Maria that her daughter was in the hospital according to Goldfinch

“I don’t know why my daughter has to be suffering this way, because it’s not fair. It’s something very sad for me,” Maria Ana explained to NBC

“I’ve already been through a lot,” Cindy went onto share. “But I hope it’s all worth it.”

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Here’s What You Should Know About Getting Your Covid Vaccine

Entertainment

Here’s What You Should Know About Getting Your Covid Vaccine

The world has almost turned the page on the Covid pandemic that has upended our lives for the last year. Vaccine strategies across the nation are helping to end the pandemic, but we are not out of the woods yet. Here are some things you and your family should know about getting your vaccination.

The vaccines are safe and effective.

In the U.S., there are three main vaccines that people are getting: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. All three have been proven to be safe and effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 109 million doses of the vaccines have been administered to people in the U.S. Millions of Americans have lined up and gotten vaccinated with a very small number experiencing the rare serious side effects.

The common side effects from the Covid vaccine are pain or swelling at the injection site, headache and chills, or a fever. These side effects disappear on their own quickly. After your vaccine, according to the CDC, you can expect to be asked to wait 15-30 minutes to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Vaccination personnel are equipped with the medication and treatments needed to reverse serious and threatening allergic reactions to the vaccine.

There are currently three vaccines available in the U.S.

Americans can expect to receive either the Pfizer-BioTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson / Janssen vaccine. Currently, these three are the vaccines that have been approved for use in the U.S. to end the pandemic. Pfizer-BioTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots taken three weeks and four weeks apart, respectively. Johnson & Johnson is a one-shot vaccine. All have been proven effective in preventing hospitalization from the virus.

There are currently two more vaccines in Phase 3 of their trial that could bring even more relief to the American public. The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novava vaccines are currently being tested and are showing promising results in the U.S. trials.

Speak with your healthcare provider about medications and the vaccine.

There is still a lot we do not know about the vaccine as we are still learning its full effect. As of now, healthcare providers and experts don’t recommend taking pain relievers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen) or antihistamines to avoid vaccination side effects. It is unclear how these medications will impact the efficacy of the vaccine.

The vaccine is not a replacement for wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

It is important to make sure that you follow proper Covid safety guidelines when you get vaccinated. This is for the safety of you, your healthcare provider, and anyone else in the area.

Covid safety guidelines aren’t going away any time soon. Even as you and those you know get vaccinated, it is important that people continue to wear masks when in public and maintain social distancing when possible. While the vaccines are effective in protecting you from getting sick and going to the hospital, doctors are still learning whether or not vaccinated people can spread Covid. This is why fully vaccinated people need to practice social distancing and continue wearing masks to ensure that they keep their communities safe.

However, for people who are fully vaccinated, life is a little freer. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks and no social distancing. Fully vaccinated people can even gather with one unvaccinated person from another household who is at a low-risk of severe Covid infection. Lastly, fully vaccinated people do not have to quarantine when they are exposed if asymptomatic.

This is the first set of guidelines released for fully vaccinated people and it is showing that life can start getting back to normal as more people line up to get their shots when they are eligible.

READ: Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

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