Health officials in Bogotá, Columbia, are investigating the death of a Black trans woman following reports of questionable actions from paramedics after they were informed the woman was HIV-positive. 

According to BuzzFeed News, Alejandra Monocuco alerted her housemate Leidy Tatiana Daza Alarcón late on May 29 with noises similar to someone gasping for air. After realizing Monocuco might be in real danger, Alarcón called emergency medical services to aid her housemate. She described Monocuco’s symptoms, and the operator advised that she may have COVID-19. 

The women waited nearly an hour for the paramedics to arrive and waited even longer for them to finally treat her. Monocuco died later that evening after a second paramedic unit was called. 

Alarcón said Monocuco didn’t receive the care she needed because she was a Black, trans sex worker living with HIV. Juli Salamanca of the Red Comunitaria Trans (RTC), an organization that works to build trans rights awareness and advocates for sex worker rights in Columbia, said the state “left her to die.”

“They killed Alejandra. Alejandra was killed by a negligent State that never cared for her throughout her life, and that in her last moments left her to die,” Salamanca told BuzzFeed via Whatsapp. “Because of the stigma that her body carried, for being trans, for being Black, for being poor, for living with HIV, for being a sex worker.”

When the EMS workers first arrived, Alarcón said she noticed that their focus seemed to shift once they saw the community that stood by to support Monocuco.

“When the ambulance arrived and [saw] we have many maricas here, they already started to relax,” Alarcón said, describing Monocuco's supporters with a term that is used as a slur toward the LGBTQ+ community.

It took the paramedics an additional 20 minutes to adorn themselves in PPE gear before they began to administer care to Monocuco, per Alarcón. As they were drawing Monocuco’s blood, Alarcón told them that she was living with HIV, which made the paramedics reevaluate their care of her. 

“He was terrified and by now he had told me, ‘This could be symptoms of overdose. Don’t give her water, don’t give her food, don’t give her absolutely anything, because she seems to be in respiratory arrest. She could choke and that would kill her,” Alarcón said.

Monocuco’s housemate pleaded with the paramedics to take her ill friend with them, but she said she was told to relax because they believed Monocuco was experiencing an overdose, not symptoms of COVID-19. 

“That was when he said, ‘No, take it easy … It's no longer a symptom of COVID, it could be a suspected overdose. Leave her be, relax, nothing is going to happen to her,’ and look at what happened!” Alarcón said.

Alarcón said it took more than 15 hours for city officials to collect Monocuco’s body from the apartment. She died in bed around 3 a.m. when the second ambulance finally showed up. Her body wasn’t retrieved until about 5:30 p.m.