Submitted on Feb 14, 2011 by  MariaHIVMejia

So yeah! I was looking forward to a nice relaxing day! Away from everything...just a place where they could pamper me...release some stress. YES! The beauty salon...yay...getting my hair done, my hands and feet done. Just time for little old me to get away from daily life...and of course, my job or mission never has a break. I was laughing with the owner (my hairdresser) and other clients that were there (hearing their problems, yeah, a little gossip Tee hee...that btw I love), listening to music and feeling good about myself and the outcome of my beauty regimen...and then BAM! Here comes a young lady with a wig...the owner looked at her in shock, and whispered in my ear...'WOW! Maria she used to live with me...' As I looked at this girl, I noticed when they took her wig off, that her hair was falling off...she was almost bald, her cheeks were sunken in, she was so pale and skinny. I was like, Hmm, thinking to myself she looks like a meth head (I know I was guilty of judging) so I just continued with what I was doing. Another dresser put a treatment in her hair, made it look a little better and the young lady left. The owner made a comment very out loud to all of us there, clients and people that worked there. 'She looks like she has AIDS.' I said, 'oh wow' to we go...She continued, 'OMG! Ewww what the hell happened to her! Man, I would be so scared to sleep with her or anyone she slept with...she looks so dirty!' Here I am holding my tongue, but with such a big urge to speak my mind and educate...and remember I was there to pamper myself and RELAX! But that went out the window, of course...whoever knows me, knows I can't hold my tongue :). So I said to the owner, 'Let me ask you something, is that what you think AIDS looks like?' She said 'yeah.' I said 'Well you are so wrong...I have AIDS.' She was in such shock, she said 'No way, Maria!' I said 'Yep, I sure am for 20 years.' you see true enough promiscuous people, iv drug users  just anyone that is high risk may be HIV positive, and it is your job to protect yourself. Funny thing this came from someone that actually sleeps around a lot! I told her listen don't be fooled by people that look good in the outside or look beautiful...anyone that has unprotected sex once is at risk! She was still trying to swallow what I just told her. She said, 'I can't believe you have AIDS, omg are you ok!?' I said 'Yes, I am, but what is important right now is not is you, and you need to know that the ones you know that are promiscuous and look sick maybe HIV+ or use drugs and don't take care of themselves... but people that are clean, beautiful, professionals, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons...ANYONE can have or get HIV! So next time you are going to have unprotected sex think of me...WHAT DOES HIV REALLY LOOK LIKE? Answer: ANYONE'. So I know that day I left her and other strangers that I disclosed to with a thought...maybe a little more education :) I also couldn't help but think, Man, imagine if I was just recently diagnosed and people were making those comments about dirty, must have AIDS, Ewww, looks sick, so many things that mess with our mind! Hell, sometimes I look in the mirror and think, do I look sick!? But I am stronger now. I am not going to lie! It affects me when people make those comments...but I dust myself off and continue! But a person that is not in that place yet, might feel dirty, low, sick, shame...and it will make them not want to disclose and come out of the HIV closet. This is ignorance and lack of education. For anyone out there that has gone through this, or overheard comments like this from family, friends, co workers etc etc..I wan't you to know..yes, I know it makes us feel bad, but you will learn as the years pass that when we intercept a conversation like that and put a different face to AIDS...not only may we change their minds and the stigma, but we also help people with our disclosure in protecting themselves. I know that it can also backfire and there will be ignorant people everywhere that may not want to deal with us anymore! But it's their loss...NO MORE SHAME! We are not dirty! We are warriors! People that are dealing with not only an illness, but the stigma that comes with it! And I can only hope for one day any of you that are in hiding can feel as free as I am starting to feel now :) I am going to end this blog with a quote from Ryan White's mother! She used to tell him, son keep your head up! And recently she sent a message to people living with HIV/AIDS and said, 'KEEP YOUR CHINS UP.' Love and Light as always! until the next time... ~Maria~

Submitted by Jacque Wambui

Just want to say.....again....AWESOME!!!!! Took the words right out of my mind, and I say mind, because I have not always said anything. Have been in those situations myself, and felt that "feeling". I have not always known what to say, or how to approach it, so I have kept silent so many times, except maybe to vent to friends and family later.......but, now you have given me the words. Thank you!

Submitted by Kristi2020

Don't even know what to say, your post triggers so many difficult emotions in my for how many times people have made derogotary comments about HIV/AIDS to me or in front of me. There have been so many times when I want to scream "I have HIV" or "This is the face of HIV" just to get people to open their eyes and end their ignorance. What I will say is Thank you. Thank you for showing your beautiful face to everyone and for fighting the stigma.



Submitted by Jacque Wambui

Thanks for the post! awesome! I am at a stage now where I feel I need to hide my status to protect my work...yes so I am in hiding! I still wait for the day when I can really shout it from the rooftops! Yes it seems its all about other pple right now and not me...I know that. I am very vocal about HIV and related issues and always telling pple off about ignorant statements even way before I knew my status but the fact that I have had to hide my status and still be vocal about it in the workplace I find disingenous. Its a journey...just been a year.....but with each passing day I feel thats a day less for me to be making a difference with putting my face out there because HIV needs a face and a lot of pple will never think that face could be mine. I feel I can make a huge difference in my community...if only......:-(((

Submitted by Jacque Wambui

Awesome and well said!
I love to educate people!
I'm not totally out of the HIV closet, but when I feel the inclination to tell a person, I tell them! As of yet, my favorite response is the jaw drop and the OMG, are you okay??? LOL!!!
Hmmmm yes, I am okay!!! I am more than okay!!
I like to say... Hah!! I am probably healthier than you!! Awareness has created an important response to my life and the more people I make aware, perhaps will save a life!! ;)

Keep up your spirit!!!

Submitted by Jacque Wambui

Excellent piece of education - and delivered in such a cool, calm and collected way.

Staying on the beauty parlor topic, has anyone experienced being asked to fill out a health questionnaire before being given a therapy at a beauty parlor? I was a couple of weeks ago - it asked for my name and contact details and listed a number of health conditions that you had to tick if you had them, including HIV. I didn't complete the questionnaire and when I was in the therapy room, I shared that I was HIV positive and that I hadn't completed the form because it contained sensitive information about me and I had no idea what would happen to the form after I had left and what sort of confidentiality was maintained in relation to the forms (the previous client's details were on top of the clipboard so I could have read all about their health condition). I've never been asked to fill in anything like that before, so wonder whether it was a one-off or is a worrying trend?

Submitted by Jacque Wambui

I will append another allegory and it's just "mind-blowing". I have no other way to express my joy and satisfaction over the concerned facts and i have read the blog well and gone through it prominently.

Submitted by Jacque Wambui

WOW! you did what so many of us want to do! Ty for your blogs, for your international groups,for what you do for our youth !!!


Submitted by MariaHIVMejia

it is in these moments that WE have to interject and educate!!! only this way we can teach others about this virus! we usually look away what we dont know or fear <3

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