I was infected with HIV during my first relationship, at the age of eighteen. I thought I was outside the risk groups, that AIDS was only found among homosexuals and drug users. I thought that I—who married as a virgin, and who practices evangelical Christianity—was immune from this epidemic.

Three months after my wedding, my husband became very sick with pneumonia, and we discovered that he was HIV-positive. He died a year later. Suddenly, there I was, at nineteen, a widow.

My husband had been sexually active. We had STD tests done before our wedding, but we were not asked to do an HIV test. I never thought for a second that my husband could be HIV-positive. For contraceptives, I used only the pill, not condoms. I should have used both.

It took three months for me to receive my own test results. I wasn’t afraid because, as an evangelical Christian, I have no fear of dying. My reaction wasn’t the usual one. But I understood that this would be my reality from then on: I had AIDS.

In Brazil, there are many churches that offer no support to people with HIV. Some preachers demand that their followers stop taking the medication, telling them that God alone will heal them. These people then stop taking the medication and die, because of the ignorance of their preachers.

I do believe God can heal us, but through medicine. If I take the medication at the right time and do my bit, God will do His bit through the medication. That was the kind of psychological and emotional support I received from my church.

We who live with HIV cherish every minute. We see life in a different, precious way.