Cristina Peña was born HIV positive in 1984. Her father died from AIDS. Her mother is still living with HIV today.
Cristina was told she was HIV positive when she was 9 years old, but she and her family kept it a secret from her schoolmates and friends.
In high school, she met and started dating Chris Ondaatje. One day after school Chris decided to tell Cristina that he was in love with her.
That’s when Cristina sat him down for a revelation of her own.
At the time of this recording, Chris and Cristina have been together for 13 years.
Cristina currently works to provide healthcare to HIV positive children in Africa. Read more here.
Click here for the transcript.
Cristina Peña (CP): I remember saying to you “I’m okay if you don’t want to keep dating me. And, you could have reacted any way. You could have gotten up. You could have called me horrible names. You could have ran out. But you said, “Babe, I’ll pick you up for a date tomorrow.” You gave me a big squeeze, and, that meant so much to me.
CO: We really learned how to communicate with each other, very well.
CO: And, it’s definitely forced us into having to grow up faster than we probably would have otherwise. I struggled with telling my parents about it. And, my dad, he was pretty upset. He tried to talk me out of dating you.
CP: I remember I’d walk into your house and he’d get up and leave, without saying anything to me. And, that was the first time I had ever realized that I was actually a threat to someone.
CO: I said, “Look, here’s this piece of paper. I get tested every six months. We’re safe. I love this girl. I want to be with her.” And, all I wanted was acceptance. It was a few years of being really distant with my mom and my dad, and really only in the last five or six years have we started to mend those issues. And we have a great relationship now. Their biggest concern is when you and I are going to get married and start having grandkids for them.
CP: You know, when I found out I was HIV positive at nine, I had no idea what my future looked like. And now, as an adult, obviously still HIV positive, but I have a future, and I have a future with you. And we’ve built that. And, you’ve made me feel so beautiful and loved. And I didn’t think I could have that.