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A RESILIENCE STORY FROM A VULNERABLE IMMIGRANT




The pandemic, caused by the COVID-19 virus between 2020 and 2021, impacted various aspects of society in different ways. Life took an unexpected turn seemingly, and we found ourselves in lockdown in our homes, wearing face masks, practicing social isolation, facing government restrictions, implementing health protocols, and uncertainty about a deadly virus about which we had no information. In the end, it left an estimated close to 15 million deaths worldwide, according to information reported by the United Nations between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. One of the aspects that gained significant importance during the pandemic was travel. Despite the mobility limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the migrant population continued to embark on clandestine journeys, fleeing violence and poverty. This is how many stories were woven. 

 

One story is of Edgar, a Colombian migrant.  Edgar decided to migrate to the United States in early 2021, His come country faced extreme conditions during COVID. This could be one of the many stories told daily of people leaving South and Central America in search of a better future in the United States. However, this story has an additional ingredient, as Edgar is a patient living with the HIV virus for more than five years. 

 

Edgar arrived fleeing his country in mid-2021 with his diagnosis as an HIV-positive patient. For several months, he journeyed through different states of the United States in search of opportunities to start his new life but also to access his Anti-Retroviral (ART) medication treatment. Remaining  “poz-undetectable” was critical for Edgar.  He did not want his health to be affected and he wanted to protect any seual partners from possible infection.  As a migrant, without resources and access to insurance or medical services, Edgar's final destination would be Texas.  Edgar decided to move to the northern part of the state of Texas and begin the search for new opportunities not only to sustain himself but also to access treatment for his diagnosis and undocumented immigrant. 

 

After knocking on more doors and seeking different organizations to gain access to his medications, one day, while searching the internet for ways or places to access the type of treatment he needed, he found what he would describe as the "Light at the End of the Tunnel." After an intense search, he came across the CHE Clinic website. Immediately, he reviewed it and found that it offered access to tests for STIs/HIV and taking PrEP.  Edgar contacted CHE Clinic. Without thinking, this became his great opportunity to access his ART treatment, which he still receives through the clinic and has allowed him to remain undetectable for nearly 3 years living in the country. 

 

For Edgar, this first experience at CHE Clinic in the city of Dallas became more than just a doctor's appointment; it became a long-term hope. From the first moment at the clinic's facilities, he not only found a place to be treated but also a team of human and capable professionals who understood his needs immediately. As he himself points out, "One of the greatest fears of a person living with the HIV virus is the option to migrate," as the various barriers faced by migrants for access to health and treatments are no secret to anyone. Today, after almost three years as a patient at CHE Clinic, Edgar appreciates the work and assistance provided by the entire medical and professional team that has accompanied him on this journey. He has had no problems accessing health services and his ART treatment. He attends his check-up appointments frequently, and when he has special needs or medical consultations, he knows he has different tools to stay in touch with his treating professional. 

 

Immigrants living with HIV constitute a particularly vulnerable population. In addition to the diagnosis as HIV-positive, other negative conditions are added due to the context of stigma, socio-cultural, economic, labor, administrative, and legal factors, simply because they are migrants. According to information from the aidsvu.org portal for the year 2021, there were 100,700 people living with HIV in Texas. Likewise, 4,363 people were diagnosed with HIV in the same year. 

 

Although the number of migrants living with the HIV virus is unknown, the CHE Clinic has a proactive attitude for early infection diagnosis. CHE seeks the most appropriate way to implement preventive measures to avoid new cases and provide accessible, tailored, and high-quality healthcare in the cities of Dallas and Austin in the state of Texas. 

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