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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 01:34 GMT
HIV stories from Latin America
Three people living in Latin America who are affected by HIV/Aids spoke to BBCMundo.com, as part of the BBC's coverage of World Aids Day on 1 December.

Read their stories below and send us your comments using the link at the bottom of the page.


Justa Suazo
Justa Suazo, 36, from Trujillo, Honduras, was diagnosed with HIV five years ago.

When I was told I had HIV I felt that my life was finished, along with my dreams, hopes and plans.

It took me two years to be able to accept my condition. Once I got over it, I became involved in a support group, the Association of People Living with HIV/Aids, and that helped me a lot.

Now I am a leader of this group in my country.

Being an infected person has allowed me to do many things I would not otherwise have done, like participating in public debates to defend the rights of my comrades who are discriminated against because of their HIV status.

I am involved in rallies, meetings and forums to educate the general population about the reality of HIV and Aids.

I feel proud of the work I do. But I am still also a mother, a friend, a sister and a woman with rights and duties.

As an infected person I have many challenges, like trying to ensure that my children and members of my family don't get infected, that youngsters in my country get to know the risks involved, and that the government puts in place policies to rise awareness and prevent the disease from spreading.

My message for World Aids day is for people to be unified in this fight against HIV/Aids, and that nobody waits to be positive to raise his voice.


Laura Perez Ottonello
Laura Perez Ottonello, from Montevideo, Uruguay, has been living with HIV for 15 years.

When I found out I was HIV-positive it was a great shock. I got it through sexual contact with my husband, due to his infidelity.

I had to learn to live with HIV, initially without treatment and in silence to avoid social discrimination, and most of all to protect my little daughter, who was in school at the time.

Then the hard times came. I got married again to an HIV-positive man and I lived with him for seven years.

Then he got a neurological disease, because of Aids. I looked after him until he died. I was with him when he took his last breath of life, holding his hand. I still carry him inside me and always will.

I have been on antiretroviral treatment for six years. And I am still here. My daughter is now 22 and I have a three-year-old granddaughter.

I now help others with HIV as the president of the Uruguay Network of People Living with HIV.

We have lost many, but I fight every day against this disease along with other HIV-positive survivors.

My message to everyone is to go ahead leading your life always, despite everything.


Sandra Zambrano
Sandra Zambrano, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is not herself HIV positive, but her family has been "hugely damaged" by the epidemic. She is manager of Casa Renacer, a centre for people with HIV/Aids.

There have been five cases of HIV in my family: two of my brothers, my nephew and two cousins. Three of them have already passed away, including my brother.

Another of my brothers, Jose Zambrano, is a gay activist. Since the beginning of the 1990s, he has worked with people living with HIV/Aids in Honduras, and I have joined the cause.

Now we manage a temporary asylum centre for people living with HIV/Aids and we work on political lobbying in this country and advocating human rights for HIV positive people.

It is not easy because there is not much support, but we believe the situation will change with the backing of the new government, given our new First Lady's commitment to the fight against the epidemic.

Honduras has the highest number of cases in Central America. We pray to God to enable us to live many years, so we can support our comrades in having a better quality of life.

The epidemic has made us stronger and we will fight on until one day a vaccination is found, which will change the lives of millions of people around the world and create a HIV-free Honduras.




SEE ALSO
HIV impact: Region-by-region
30 Nov 05 |  Health

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