SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Carla, in her late 40s, is a big-boned woman who feels trapped in her male body. In the deeply homophobic culture of El Salvador, the confusion over her sexual identity nearly got her killed.
It takes courage to be gay in Latin America, and especially in El Salvador, where a sizeable portion of the country is controlled by gun-toting street gangs with a concept of masculinity that does not allow for much nuance.
Being a professional sex worker at night didn’t help. An enraged potential male client shot Carla nine times. Released from the hospital, she was shot again.
In 2001, she was thrown in jail and tested positive for HIV/AIDS.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Carla recalled. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Prison saved her life. After doctors detected the disease, she was able to start taking anti-retroviral treatment. Today she’s a dynamic activist in the city’s transvestite community.
The anti-retroviral treatment would not have been available, and Carla would probably be dead by now, if it had not been for the Global Fund, an innovative, relatively new actor on the international development scene.