After applying for a job at The Vanity Lash — a Harlingen hair salon — Rachel Leestamper got the call.
The owner offered her a job, said Rachel Leestamper, a 28-year-old, HIV-positive Harlingen resident.
“I disclosed my status to the salon owner and she was OK with it,” Leestamper said. “Then two days later, I got a bunch of messages from her on my phone stating that because of my situation — and that I’m so open about it, that with her new salon being open — that she could no longer offer me the job.”
CBS 4 News contacted The Vanity Lash on Saturday. The owner, who wouldn’t comment on camera, said he would provide a statement. No statement arrived. Several attempts to follow up were unsuccessful.
“It was kinda hard,” Leestamper said. “I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do. I was really lost.”
Word about Leestamper’s rejection prompted a small protest at the hair salon on Saturday.
Some protesters said they suspected a lack of knowledge about HIV may have contributed to the problem.
“We want the Valley to know that we’re not gonna stand for that each and every time it happens,” said Adrian Castellanos, who protested on Saturday.
The human immunodeficiency virus, commonly called HIV, attacks the body’s immune system, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Left untreated, the virus can lead to AIDS.
HIV spreads through blood and other bodily fluids.
Researchers haven’t developed a vaccine or cure for HIV. Treatment, though, can allow many people with HIV to lead normal lives.
“I just want people to understand that this isn’t right,” Leestamper said, adding later: “That’s all, like, I really want is for people to understand that this can happen to anybody and that I’m not going to harm anybody.”
Learn more about HIV and AIDS at AIDS.gov.