Jersey City, New Jersey

Positive since 1994

My name is Noemi. I’m 45 years old. I have been positive since 1994.

I came to the United States from Honduras in 1988. I was 17 years old and pregnant with my son. When I met my ex-husband in 1989, my son was 5 monthsold. In 1993, I got pregnant with my second child. And of course, the doctors test you for HIV. On May 7, 1994, the day my son was born, I found out I was HIV positive.

My world fell apart. I was only 23 and had had only two sexual partners. When I told my ex-husband that same day, of course, I got the blame for it, knowing for sure that he had been on drugs and went to rehab for it. That year, I married him. Yes, you might think that I was stupid. It probably was, because during the 15 years I was married to him, I got beaten, cheated on, sexually abused and terrorized about how I was never going to make it without him. Well, I did make it.

In 1999, I met someone who I fell in love with. Yes, I cheated, but I didn’t see it that way because our marriage was completely done. I probably did things the wrong way. But meeting this person who accepted me the way I was gave me the strength to walk out. While going to court for our divorce, I was physically abused because he found out about the other person. I told him, and punches and a broken nose were the result of it.

Anyway, while going through all that, I found out that I was pregnant again. My HIV was undetectable. Thank God! Many people suggested I abort my baby, but I couldn’t see myself doing that. So on March 13, 2000, I had my baby girl who was healthy and HIV-free. We got treated for a year, and I’m so thankful because my daughter never got the virus.

I now live on my own. My two boys graduated college, and my daughter is in the 10th grade. I’m still undetectable. I hope my story helps someone who is in the wrong relationship because they don’t think they can find someone to love them. I’ll tell you this: I get asked out a lot even after I disclose my health status. I just choose to be single. Maybe when my daughter goes to college, I’ll find someone to share my life with, because there is a life with HIV. You only have to choose the right people to live it with.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Happy. Positive. Down-to-earth.

What is your greatest achievement?

Seeing my two boys graduate college.

What is your greatest regret?

Being so naive.

What keeps you up at night?

Work. I work at night.

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?

To not have HIV, but I would love for people to talk more about it.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Live life.

What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?

My caseworker.

What drives you to do what you do?

My children.

What is your motto?

If I can take it, I can make it.

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?

My cat, Nino.

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?

An eagle because it flies high and is free.