Luz: United States
August 10, 2011
Luz with Jake Glaser. (Photo: EGPAF)
It was on a train ride back to the Bronx when I said to my husband Ramon, “Let’s have a baby.”
“Wow! A baby?” Ramon responded with wide eyes.
That reaction may be typical for any possible parent-to-be, but for us, it was even more pronounced. My name is Luz, and I am HIV-positive.
I had originally researched HIV prevention in 2001 when I found out that my first spouse was living with the virus. As a couple, we took the appropriate precautions. I was tested for HIV every three months and always received negative results. Then in 2004, I tested positive. The results shocked me, and for the first time in a long time, I was uncertain about my future. I was mostly afraid for my children. I was terrified to leave them alone, and I knew I had to fight on for them.
Five months after my diagnosis, I was a widow.
Alone and HIV-positive, I came to rely on my network of friends who gave me strength and hope. I joined a support group and began volunteering as a learning leader at my son’s school. It was there that I met Ramon.
We were friends before we fell in love, and we got married in 2006. The wedding was perfect: one witness, my two youngest children, the minister, Ramon, and I. I was so happy.
Following the wedding, I talked to my doctor about having another child – my first as a woman living with HIV. After plenty of research, sonograms, referrals, vitamins, and medicines, Ramon and I finally conceived in 2008. I was ecstatic!
I was confident my child would be born healthy. If a pregnant woman follows prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) procedures, there is less than a two percent chance that her baby will be infected with HIV.
The first time I heard the baby’s heartbeat, I cried. The joy I felt gave me the courage to share my status with my extended family and friends, and prompted me to become more involved in the cause. I wanted others to know that a healthy child is a real possibility for those living with HIV.
The weeks before my child’s birth were unbelievable. I enjoyed every single moment: holding my belly and singing to her at night, talking to her, waiting, dreaming. On October 21, 2008 – her father’s birthday – Janel Anais was born.
She was tested for HIV immediately, and the results were negative.
At home I gave her liquid AZT, a medicine that helps to stop the transmission of HIV to infants; AZT is part of the PMTCT regimen. Giving her the medicine was a reminder of how fortunate I was to have access to these critical HIV prevention services.
We continued to follow strict HIV prevention guidelines until finally, after weeks worrying about her final test results, we received word that Janel was officially HIV-negative. When I got the final call, I could hear the nurses cheer and clap in the background. It’s a moment that will stay with me forever.
Janel has given me hope and the strength to stand up against HIV and AIDS. Today, I speak to young adults and my community about pregnancy, HIV prevention, testing, and disclosure. There is so much stigma and prejudice out there, which is why the education I provide is so important. I am living proof that the elimination of pediatric AIDS is possible, and that an HIV-positive woman can have a healthy child.