I got HIV from my partner, who liked buying sex. I told him if he couldn’t stop messing around like that, he should at least use condoms. “If you were to get AIDS, what would we do?” Not long after that conversation, when I visited the doctor for antenatal care, they found that I had HIV. Luckily I had not given HIV 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 was infected and he said, “If I’m infected too, I’m committing suicide.” I was so scared. I thought three years would be the end of my life. Soon after, 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 fifty—I’m forty-three now so that will be another seven years.
Now I’m a counselor. I am often the first person a woman speaks to after finding out her 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 her, give her support.
When a woman comes to seem 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 to me. I need somebody to nurture me too.