SAN ANTONIO – Brief 15- to 60-second videos serve as a window into people’s lives on TikTok. Within the social media platform, there are diverse communities that focus on certain topics including education, music and the latest dance moves.
However, one San Antonio woman is using her account to show users that it’s possible to live a healthy life with HIV.
More than 28,000 people follow Janeli Saucedo Castrejana on TikTok for new content related to HIV. Her account is less than a year old, but her journey with the disease began more than 10 years ago when she met the love of her life.
“We started dating, and he told me upfront that he was HIV positive,” Saucedo Castrejana said. “So, that obviously meant our relationship dynamic was going to have to be a little different.”
Once her partner was on medication, the couple was told by their doctor they could engage in intimacy using contraceptives. Although careful, her life changed forever.
“A few months after that, I got the diagnosis of being HIV positive, and it was very difficult for us at first,” Saucedo Castrejana said. “I think most people assumed that I would just be OK with contracting it and that wasn’t the case. We had made a plan to be a mixed status couple and it didn’t work out that way.”
The couple has since had three children who are all HIV negative.
“(Doctors) will determine your viral load and if it’s low, they’ll have you push the baby out as normal,” Saucedo Castrejana said on her TikTok video.
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Her journey has led her to become an advocate for HIV and to remind people there is hope.
“HIV isn’t necessarily a personality trait at all,” Saucedo Castrejana said. “I put it out there for my whole life out there. I’m an open book. I feel like there’s power in sharing experiences.”
On her TikTok account, Saucedo Castrejana shares important information and makes it relatable. Her advocacy on TikTok includes makeup looks inspired by HIV medications and information on pregnancy and delivery with the virus. Perhaps one of the key video lessons on her page is informing viewers was undetectable means and why it’s important. “U equals U,” Saucedo Castrejana said on this TikTok video. “Undetectable means untransmittable. Basically, anyone who’s undetectable cannot transmit the virus to anyone.”
Her videos are brief and informal, which she believes encourages viewers to ask questions and engage with her online. Her hope is to continue making videos on TikTok.
“What our message really wants to be is, it doesn’t matter how someone contracts HIV, it shouldn’t matter. Everyone merits care, really good quality care, respect and life being stigma-free,” Saucedo Castrejana said.
To watch Saucedo Castrejana’s videos or follow her on TikTok, click here.