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Jump to navigation. Both guerrillas and paramilitaries often run prostitution rackets in areas under their control, forcing sex workers to have unprotected sex and extract bits of information from enemy clients. Combatants themselves are five times more likely than civilians to contract HIV. At the health clinic where she worked as an administrator, her boss enlisted the staff for a blood drive, and Cossio had dutifully rolled up her sleeve.
Two weeks later, the results of her blood screening came back HIV positive. Her boss told the entire staff before telling her; she was the last to know. Co-workers stopped using the bathroom she used. At the cafeteria, she no longer received her lunch on normal plates like everyone else; her meals now came on disposable plates with plastic utensils. Eventually, she was fired. Immersed in this new life, Cossio went on to become a founding member of the Girasol Project, a network of Colombian women living with the virus that now has several offices around the country.
On the other side, powerful activist groups are fighting for their rights, together with the usual obstacles facing HIV activists around the world, in a country at war.
The higher rates are mostly concentrated among men who have sex with men and intravenous-drug users. Sicard adds that Colombia is seeing a steady increase in heterosexual transmission, which means that HIV is being transmitted from groups with high concentrations to previously less affected populations, particularly women. A government study published in reveals the feminization of the epidemic: In , there were 55 men infected for every one woman; in , the ratio had fallen to seven to one; today, it stands at two to one, according to UNAIDS.
Cossio says she received her surprising diagnosis nine months after her husband, who she later realized had infected her, died victim of a botched robbery. The meeting was life changing. The conference participants gave her practical information about treatments and her rights, and she became part of a support and information network of HIV-positive women. It was these meetings that sent the armed men after her.