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Hello, my name is Samantha Rose Montemayor Morales. I am a Proud Trans Latina Woman of Color who has been living with HIV since June 28, 2010. How has my culture impacted my experience with HIV? When I was told I was HIV positive, I lived my life as a gay male. They told my family and friends about my status before they told me. I remember I was in a hospital bed, when I opened my eyes and a good friend of mine told me, "Hey, they told us you're HIV+." I remember telling her, "You're crazy." After she told me, my father and oldest brother walked in and the doctor after them. He got to my bedside and said, "You're HIV+." I remember tears falling and I said, "OK, what is next? What are the next steps?"
The reason I was in the hospital was that I had gallbladder issues. I went home after my surgery and that's when the hell started. I was told by my father that I was a disgrace for the family. I was only able to use a plastic plate, cup, spoon, and fork. Every time I would use the bathroom, they would spray it down with Clorox. I left my father's home saying I would never return, I was so hurt.
A few months later I realized I needed to educate my family on what HIV was. Due to the simple fact that I was diagnosed with HIV, for them I had AIDS. They didn't know that it's two different matters: HIV is the virus and AIDS is the illness.
Another issue I have had with my community is since I transitioned to living as a transgender female, people assume that I got HIV from doing transactional sex work, when I have never done this before.
Why Samantha wants to be part of A Girl Like Me: I want to be part of A Girl Like Me because I am a Proud Trans Latina Woman of Color who is living with HIV. We need to end the stigma on HIV and educate our community about the difference between HIV and AIDS.