Belinda Hernandez considered herself just a regular Texan – she’d been born and raised in Dallas, has a brother in Arlington, has two daughters, a boyfriend, a mom, a dad, and attends the family’s massive 400+ person reunion every few years. But in 2010, Belinda started feeling sick. Over the course of several years, she had been losing weight, losing hair, and was getting very worried. She had seen seven different providers, but nothing seemed to be working, and no answer seemed to be correct.
Then, Belinda got a diagnosis that completely blindsided her.
“I saw a doctor finally,” Belinda says, “and a couple days after my appointment he gave me a call and said, ‘we’d like you to come into the office.’ Now, I’ve worked in the medical field before, so I know that when they ask you to come in, it’s not good.”
Belinda’s suspicions were right. When she came into the office, her doctor said she had HIV.
“I was just completely shocked, you know. I wasn’t doing any risky behavior, didn’t have any of the risk factors…I was just shocked.”
With this startling news, Belinda’s thoughts began to whirl with fear – but then her doctor said something that calmed her.
“He said I was ‘worth more than the sparrow’, and that he would help me. He said ‘let me set you up with the experts here,’ and that was Health Services of North Texas.”
Belinda’s first visit at HSNT was with Dr. Arlene Hudson at HSNT’s health center in Denton, and her experience with Dr. Hudson’s reassuring bedside manner and her personal approach to care left an impression on Belinda. After a few visits, she tested positive for AIDS, but Belinda was not going to let that shake her. The staff and providers at HSNT had given her confidence back.
“All the young ladies in the front are amazing, they make you feel like a person again. Erika Washington, she’s just the ‘Bomb dot com!’ She linked me up with Kayla Whitworth, who is just amazing, too. And the televisit system is awesome.”
With her AIDS diagnosis, Belinda’s immune system was already compromised, but now with the current COVID-19 pandemic, Belinda must be even more careful. HSNT’s telehealth system, however, has made sure she still gets the care she needs without leaving the safety of her home.
“I do televisits with Kayla, on the Healow app on my phone, which was so easy to use. I just clicked on the button that said ‘Appointment’ and it took me right into a little waiting room. It was just as if I was in the office. [Kayla] was great when I saw her in person, but she was just the same on the app. She listens to me, like everyone I’ve seen here, she really listens.”
When Belinda gets to a point where she’s healthy enough, she says she wants to be an advocate for people in her situation.
“There was a time that I would’ve been ashamed of this but I’m not anymore. I will scream it from everywhere – I would love to be an advocate for this, to get out there and tell people ‘It’s okay if you have this. It’s not the end of the world.’”