My name is Alejandra and I am originally from Bayamon, Puerto Rico. I came to San Francisco to find my father when I was 13 years old. I had learned some cosmetology skills from my mom, and hoped to make a living in that field here. When I was 16, it became very hard for me living in San Francisco by myself. I still hadn’t found my dad. So I started working as a sex worker. I was arrested for prostitution soon after. The court helped me to find my dad & I lived with him until he died of AIDS-related conditions in 1998.

After my dad passed away, I became homeless. I ate out of trash cans & panhandled on the street. I was very depressed. I turned again to sex work, & got a room in an SRO hotel. I also went to school at City College for fashion design & cosmetology.

Now I am HIV positive. In 2009, I found out about my diagnosis. Depressed and angry, I went home to wait for my boyfriend at that time. When I got home, I sat down and told him that the doctor told me that I was HIV positive. He got up, laughing, and he left. I was in shock, scared. I didn’t know what to do next. I was afraid to tell my family what was going wrong with me.

One of my friends helped so much and forever I will be grateful. He makes me laugh and makes me feel alive again. Also, what really helped me was my dog, Chichi. Chichi came in my life when I really needed support. She is a half poodle and half Shih-Tzu. For 14 years I had been living in an infested hotel with roaches and rats. One evening I sat down, and staring at Chichi, I said to myself that I was going to do my best to change my ways and try to live better. Thanks to Chichi and the goal I made in my life, I accomplished it.

In 2012, I moved to Baker’s Dozen, a co-op with 12 fabulous roommates. I don’t work in the street [as a sex worker] anymore. And now Chichi has a big patio & garden to run free. I’ve made a better life for the two of us. Also, my roommates give me the support I need in my life. Thanks to my doctor, Monica Gandhi, for helping me to be better and to understand a little more of HIV and how to live positive.

Now I am waiting for the green light from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, telling me that it is OK to have my sexual reassignment surgery, which has been my goal for many years.

My advice to you, if you find yourself in the position that I did, is to find something that really motivates you, set it in your heart, and go for it. If I did it, you can do it, too.

Alejandra Cruz is an amazing fashion designer, hairdresser, & makeup artist who lives in San Francisco with her dog, Chichi. She is originally from Puerto Rico. She is a transgender woman living with HIV.

 

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Information and Resources from HIVE

We are on a journey, learning and growing together. Want to share your #WheresMyPrEP story? Looking for a platform for your voice? Interested in helping others by sharing your story? We can work with you if you prefer to be anonymous. No professional writing skills necessary. Contact Caroline@HIVEonline.org.

Are you a trans guy interested in PrEP? Check out these resources below:

HIVE’s Trans Women page

Project Inform’s Transcending Barriers for Safer Pleasure

PrEP Facts: Women’s Sexuality and HIV Prevention