Cida - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I never thought that AIDS could one day be part of my life. I am a retired teacher, and I always guided my students to take care of themselves, to get tested and treated. I thought I was immune. When we have little information or knowledge, we end up not believing that some things can happen to us. I was forty-five years old when I was diagnosed and, up to that point, I had never met anyone who had AIDS. I thought only artists got it, or other people—but it happened in my house, in my bed.
A year after diagnosis, in 2001, I went blind due to an opportunistic disease, a cytomegalovirus that attacked my retina. I lost my eyesight after having five surgeries in each eye. From the moment I went blind, everything changed.
In those first moments, when I reached out to others, I thought I would only be seeking help. But I discovered I could also offer help. And it was really good for me, because the more I said to people, “You’re going to get better. Take care of yourself,” the more I heard it too. I heard it and I got better.
Yesterday I was taking pictures with a friend, and people stopped to look, saying, “A blind person taking pictures?!” I had help at times, but I did it myself.
I am often told how strong I am. People invite me to give talks about my life experience. But I don’t have any other option. I can sulk, or I can raise my head and fight. For a year I stayed at home crying, but that didn’t take me anywhere, so I decided to get up and do it differently, to seek new challenges. I can say I make myself proud at times.