Nina remembers the Magic Johnson announcement, and people talking about it — and that is how she comforted herself at school. The family decided the only way to move on was to be open. Alvarado told the school principals about her daughter. When Nina wanted her friends to sleep over, she told the children’s parents.
“We were too young to know, or learn that we should be uncomfortable with it, so that’s kind of a blessing for me. I never learned to be uncomfortable about it,” Martinez said. “To me it was something that was neat and something I associated with like, a famous athlete.”
She has never had a serious complication from the disease. She became an AIDS advocate when she arrived at Georgetown, and before she graduated in 2005, she was participating in research studies at the National Institutes of Health. She moved to Atlanta to pursue graduate work at Emory, eventually landing a job as a public health analyst at the Centers for Disease Control.
Tyler Spencer, who helped found The Grassroot Project, attended an AIDS awareness conference at a hotel in Atlanta in August of 2011. He was giving a presentation on his project on a sleepy Saturday morning that month, and after introducing himself as a former Georgetown student, a loud chant came from a woman in the crowd. “Hoya Saxa!” It was Martinez.
“I was thrown off by it,” said Spencer, who convinced Martinez to run in the Marine Corps Half Marathon this weekend. “It’s hard to put into words, her personality . . . she has this amazing sense of humor, but also this attitude that recognizes all the problems that we’re facing in trying to address HIV, and in some places, [where] we’re not doing a good enough job to address HIV.”
Martinez lives with her twin sister in Atlanta, and the two never talk about what would have happened had they switched places in California in 1983, preferring to think about all the places they still want to go in their lives. For Nina, one of those places will be Fredericksburg on Sunday, where she will be sporting new size 7 sneakers that Marie bought her recently.
“You have to show people how to move forward. You have to show them that they can still have a life, and still have a career. I have both,” Martinez said. “I will try to show them that they can run a half marathon.”