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Changing Face of HIV -- One Woman's Story
By Mona Gable
Lara Jo Regan, photographer
as the AIDS virus rages inside her, Brenda Gonzalez swells with
new life and the promise of motherhood.
months along, she rubs her large belly in the instinctive way pregnant
women do, cooing to the tiny being curled inside. The day before
her mother, Alma, who lives in the apartment next door, threw her
a baby shower. A sea of orange, yellow, red and blue balloons float
along the walls. A car seat, a layette and other baby gifts fill
a corner. "I'm sorry about the mess," she apologizes. The studio,
little bigger than some peoples' master bedrooms, is immaculate.
in a red sweater, black leggings, her long dark hair neatly curled,
Brenda sits at her kitchen table on this gray morning, sipping herbal
tea. A bright, articulate woman, she openly shares her thoughts
on the disease that has invaded her life.
got infected with HIV sometime last summer, from a man she was seeing
in her native Guatemala. They were good friends, working together
at a large American hotel in Guatemala City. He was married, with
two small children. One day he showed up at her house unannounced
and they had sex. She vowed she wouldn't sleep with him again. She
didn't use any birth control, though she thought of using condoms.
She's not sure why; perhaps that would have meant admitting intent.
She never thought about the HIV virus.
July, she discovered she was pregnant. In August, she decided to
take the HIV test. She asked her partner if he wanted to take it,
too, but he declined. He was healthy, he said. Her test came out
negative. In December, Brenda returned alone to Los Angeles, where
she had lived when in high school, and moved in with her mother
and stepfather. "I had to be realistic," she says. "I wanted my
baby to have a good education."