Maria Mejia did not have it easy growing up. She was sexually molested at just 3 years-old by a family member and by the time she was 13 she ran away from home. Then at 15 she joined a gang and contracted HIV. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and this is the case for Mejia who’s used her personal experience to raise awareness about HIV and the disparities seen in the Latino community.
“My first memory was at three years old; being sexually molested by an uncle, this caused me to feel ashamed, self-hate and a lot of anger growing up,” shares Mejia. In addition to that, her father would demean her by calling her a whore and telling her she would never amount to anything. This caused her life to spiral out of control at a very young age.
“I got tired of the abuse and ran away to the streets where I found a family of broken kids just like me. It was a very violent street gang and I became the girlfriend of the leader of the gang who gave me HIV at the age of 15 in 1998. Neither of us knew we had HIV,” she says.