I got HIV from my partner who liked buying sex from prostitutes. And he never used a condom. He regularly brought sexual diseases back to me. During my pregnancy with my second child, he repeated the same behavior. I told him if he couldn’t stop messing around like that, use condoms. “If you were to get AIDS, what would we do?” Not so long after that conversation, when I visited the doctor for antenatal care, they found that I had HIV. Luckily the HIV had not spread to my baby.
That day shattered my dreams. At that time there was no medication and the information I got was that I couldn’t live beyond three years. When I came home I told my partner that I got infected and my partner said, “If I’m infected too, I’m committing suicide.” I explained that, in fact, I received sexual transmission from him. I told him to stop going to the whorehouse. I got so scared. I thought three years would be the end of my life. My partner was diagnosed with fungus on his brain. He lived for another two years and died.
The day before three years was up, I was imagining how I would die, even though I was so healthy. I couldn’t sleep at all—it would be my last night and last day! Then the morning came—I was still alive. I thought, well, I can continue to dream then. So I started to focus on raising my children. I would aim for them to go to school. I wanted them to graduate from primary school, junior high, high school, even earn a bachelor’s degree, which my eldest child accomplished. I have faith. I want to live until 50—I’m 43 now so that will be another 7 years.
Now, I’m a counselor. I am often the first person a woman speaks to after finding out their HIV-positive status. I have to have a lot of self-control. I must be stable and not succumb to any personal emotions. Because if I break down, it might trigger more sadness for the client. I have to encourage them, give them support. I feel better about myself when I get to help others. I would have been so much better off if I could have had someone to talk to when I found out. I was six months pregnant. I always worried about my baby—would she be healthy, or would she be HIV-positive like me? Back in the day there was no way to test.
When a woman comes to see me for counseling, she carries an emotional burden and needs to talk to someone. She doesn’t know where to turn. But here, with me, she can talk about anything, and I will keep it secret. I wanted to do this counseling work because I remembered how I felt, how I needed to have someone to trust and talk to.
I am a giver of support, but I also want to be the receiver because I am also living with HIV. When I worry about myself I need somebody to listen. I need somebody to nurture me too.