20 Years Positive and a Lifetime Negative: A Look Back

Life is full of surprises, some of which can be life changing. January 20, 1995 is the day I found out I was HIV positive. When I was given my results, I thought it must be a mistake. I had stepped into a small clinic for what I thought would be a routine test. The realization of what was happening was almost too much to comprehend. Unfortunately, the clinic did not have any open follow up appointments available. The soonest was two months away.

Pati and Fernandos 20 Years Later

Pati and Fernandos 20 Years Later

I was sent home that snowy January day with more questions than I knew to begin to ask. About a week later, I came to the realization I couldn’t have children. I say this because, at the time, not only did I think my diagnosis was a death sentence, but I thought bringing a healthy child into the situation was just not possible.

In the meantime while I was waiting for the day of my appointment to arrive, I heard about another clinic which specialized in HIV services. Based on all I had heard and the fact I was able to get in I decided to go there. I received great care and learned more about my diagnosis.

During this time I also received another life changing surprise: I found out I was pregnant. My first phone call however was not to family or friends but to an AIDS hotline to see what information they could provide about being HIV positive and pregnant. At that time they did not have much information on HIV and pregnancy but did share some studies about treatments that increased the chances of having a healthy child from 75% to about 90% (today, treatment and care increase the chance to over 99%). My next phone call was to the clinic where I was being seen to schedule an appointment to find out what the next steps would be.

When I went in for my appointment we discussed that at that time they did not have an in-house OBGYN. However they did have someone who they referred patients to. I went in to see this doctor who confirmed my pregnancy: I was 9 weeks pregnant. Then she also told me she would not be taking me as a patient; she did not want to treat me because of my HIV status. I was embarrassed and disheartened. But she referred me to a hospital. I was scared, anxious and excited about the prospect of a new doctor. I knew I had to keep trying to find someone who could help me.