Today, 1/12/2014, marks the Global day set aside to discuss and address matters concerning HIV/AIDS , to celebrate the heroes who have fought the virus , to appreciate the heroines who have beat stigmatization .This day , since 2005 has been closer to me than any other global *holiday* .
While in form two, 2005, some of us were privileged to represent my high school to some community service at a nearby hospital. I landed in a male ward that I later learnt was occupied by a HIV / AIDS patient. I remember the way his frail frame did not restrain him from beaming with smile when we entered his room. My friend and I spent a few minutes chatting with him before we embarked on cleaning his room. Back then, I might have been naive. I could not understand why he had to stop mid-sentence to catch some breath. I expected an AIDS victim to be covered in sores, but his was opposite, a very shiny skin, very soft hair, sunken eyes but above all a personality that taught me a lot . Despite maybe; stigmatization and weak body, the man, I now think was in his thirties, had a lot of plans. One being seeing her daughters go to a good school like ours.
He asked about our studies and generally made us happy as we worked around his room I hope that that resilient spirit is still alive, realizing the so many dreams he had.
I have since then looked at HIV /AIDS at a very different angle; I think the only reason why am an avid reader on Asuntha Wagura’s diary every Wednesday in the daily Nation. It’s not a death sentence, because ADS DOES NOT KILL. Only opportunistic diseases kill.
I have learnt to show those infected love. I have learnt to, apart from preaching abstinence; tell those that I can that a condom would help. Am not shy to offer buying condoms for sexually active pals of mine. Sex is happening in the society and the more we shun away from it the more we make more people susceptible to STIs, AIDS included. If properly used, a condom is one of the most effective methods to curb new infections and re infections.
Pic Courtesy: Internet uploads .
FACT: If you are not infected, you are affected. I have learnt to look at AIDS as something am not immune to. And not only is it transmitted via sex. Below is one story that makes me sad and proud of her at the same time. Name changed. Let’s call her Jane, 22 year old I met in one of my random voluntary works at support group.
“I was infected with the virus when n I was 18. I had just cleared school and decided to help my mum at her salon. I have been very passionate about manicure and pedicure and in no time, I was a favorite of many customers. There is this particular lady, a friend to mum that I often did pedi on. She was nice and gave me good tips. One day while working one her, I accidentally hurt her. It was bad. I felt so remorseful that I held the cut with bare hands for a while trying to stop the bleeding and thinking what to do next. Being someone I was very close to, she did not throw tantrums but kept assuring me that she would be fine. What I did not remember is that I had picked a deep cut the previous day and had no gloves on.
Almost a year later, I decided to do and have HIV test, just as encouraged in the media. I had never been sexually involved before, so I was very sure that I did not have the virus. I was so shocked when I saw my results. I was in denial. I went home and told my mum, since I had no dirty past to make me ashamed of. She accompanied me for the second test which turned out positive. I went for a third, fourth and even fifth which all proved that I had the virus. I was broken but my mum was very supportive. She encouraged me to visit a clinic and be advised on antiretroviral as we searched for answers. I did not want to die yet so I had no option, little did I know that this would answer all my questions. At the clinic, guess who is on the queue waiting to be served? The very lady I had accidentally cut during a pedicure. Instead of the bitterness, I felt relief but then turned to sorrow. I wept and nothing would calm me down. She was among those who came to calm me down when the sobs became uncontrollable.
It took me two days to finally speak out on the link I thought about. She was very remorseful that she started blaming herself. The fact that my mum stood with me gave me strength not to judge but to walk the journey. Together with the lady we have given hope to many.
I decided not to pity myself because I am too young and beautiful, do you see it? It’s been over a year with active involvement in fighting stigma and giving hope to many. Am leading a very normal life.”
I changed the name because this was not an interview and did have her contact to ask permission to publish. She has made her status public though. She turned 22 this year, still a virgin.
HIV/AIDS IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.