Ryan P. Cumming
As many as 140,000 people in Colombia are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the United Nations. The challenges they face are significant. Because of the disease’s association with sexuality, many people who are HIV-positive face prejudice, fear and discrimination. The stigma of HIV/AIDS in Colombia carries legal and medical consequences, as well. Individuals can be denied disability benefits, scorned by employers or denied medical care for their disease.
Knowing the harsh reality of stigma and the consequences it carries, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia (IELCO) is committed to supporting HIV/AIDS-positive Colombians. In addition to educating Lutherans about the disease, the Asivida ministry of IELCO supports Caminando Juntos (“walking together”), a group of HIV/AIDS-positive men and women who support each other emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and legally. With the help of Rosemary Rincon, a social psychologist on staff with IELCO, Caminando Juntos has successfully advocated for the right to disability benefits and medical care for its members.
The ELCA accompanies its companion churches in many ways. One important form of accompaniment is support for vital ministries within local communities. Asivida – with its education, outreach, and support of Caminando Juntos – is just a part of the many ministries of IELCO, supported in part by gifts to ELCA World Hunger. Together, we can be part of IELCO’s powerful witness and action in Colombia!
Watch the video below to hear Rosemary’s powerful story! (A transcript of the video is below for readers who do not speak Spanish.)
My name is Rosemary Rincon. I’m a mom.
I’m a psychologist.
I’m a good daughter, a good friend, a good employee.
I’m a woman, I’m happy and I live with HIV.
We usually think, “It can’t happen to me. This may happen to others, it happens to other people, but not to me.” First off, I’m a housewife; I only have one sex partner. My boyfriend of eight years was my one and only boyfriend, my sole sex partner in my whole life… and I married him. It may affect loose women, sex workers, homosexuals, people who lead an immoral life, and the like, but not me…
And I entrusted my sexuality and my health to my husband, my partner. Perhaps my love for him prevented me from seeing myself in risk.
…I’ve been living with it for 14 years and it hasn’t tainted my life. Instead, I think you live with more intensity, with dreams. In my opinion, living with the virus is not disabling, quite the contrary. It’s a decision that changes your life but it should change it for the best.
We have an individual role to play in society. But we need to take the initiative and not just stay there like some people do.
Obviously, the easiest approach is to say, “I’ll die.” Then you also see that time passes by, because nowadays this is a chronic, treatable disease.
So, how much time will I have to spend waiting for death? It could be 10, 15 years… by the way, it’s the same time I’ve had it so far: 14 years. Had I taken a different approach, I wouldn’t be alive today and wouldn’t be enjoying the privileges and opportunities I’ve given myself and that life has also granted me.
I think that, in a certain way, God, and even the universe have placed the right people and provided me with the means to help me move forward. And I think he does this for all of us. We may live in the last corner of the world, but if we face life with a positive outlook and our dreams overpower our circumstances…
You should also start your own research, give yourself the opportunity…. that the virus is not transmitted by casual contact, that we need to take some precautions, that we need to be responsible, but also, the fact that being HIV positive does not restrict my entitlement to maternity, to love and be loved, and many other dreams. The means and the appropriate conditions already exist, see?
I gave myself the opportunity, just as any other woman with HIV could; the opportunity of becoming a mother… obviously educating myself…
There’s the support from the interdisciplinary team. They provided me with integral care and all the appropriate conditions… and here’s the result, my daughter. She’s now three and totally HIV free… and we keep striving just like any other family in our country.
Whether or not we are HIV positive, we are women in essence… and I think that this is what makes us valuable. It’s that difference.
It works the same for guys. But we make a perfect team, men and women. And we need to respect each other and love each other in spite of the differences.
Women with HIV or without HIV, we’re equally valuable.
I’m a mom
I’m a psychologist
I’m a good daughter, a good friend, a good employee…
I’m a woman, I’m happy and I live with HIV
“It can’t happen to me”
“I only had one sex partner”
“It happens to people who lead an immoral life”
“My love for him prevented me from seeing myself in risk”
Rosemary has lived with the HIV virus for 14 years. Her husband and only sex partner caused her to become infected…
“You live with more intensity, with dreams”
“Living with the HIV virus is not disabling”
“The easiest approach is to say, ‘I’ll die'”
“Life has given me privileges and opportunities”
“We have to give ourselves the opportunity”
“I can love, be loved, live”
“I gave myself the opportunity”
“My daughter is HIV negative”