“Everyone was looking at us like, Where the hell did they come from? They were looking at us even worse when we asked for HIV tests.”
- On July 2, 2015
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EUNIME is named after two HIV-infected sisters, Eunice and Noemí. Juanita Ortiz, an uninfected sister, cofounded the orphanage with Rosalva Vásquez, who later started Es Por Los Niños after the two had a falling-out. Although Juanita was raising two children of her own, her life revolved around EUNIME.
Juanita moved from Michoacán state to Tijuana with her father when she was 12. Three years later, in 1995, she learned that her mother, who was back in Michoacán with a new husband, had died of AIDS. Eight of her siblings were living with her mother, and Juanita’s older brother decided that they all should come live with him in Tijuana.
Juanita had a place of her own and was working two jobs in addition to going to school. When the children arrived, she was recruited to help care for them. “That was a big adventure,” she said. They had bloated bellies from malnourishment, and parasites coming out of their noses and mouths; Eunice, who was six months old, had a fungus on her neck and a swollen liver. Juanita took all eight of them to the health department for HIV tests. “Everyone was looking at us like, Where the hell did they come from? They were looking at us even worse when we asked for HIV tests.”