I disclosed to my family after an uncle of mine died of AIDS. They believed he was bewitched. But I told them, “No, HIV is real. I’m living with HIV, and there’s nothing wrong with having it.”
At first, my grandmother said to me, “You know what, don’t tell other people that you have HIV.” I said, “Why not, Granny? If I don’t talk about this thing, it’s eating me up inside. If I do talk about it, I’m feeling free and I’m able to live with this virus.” So after a few months she understood what I meant and supported me a lot. Now the whole family knows about my status. My community knows too. And I’m prepared to go on national TV to talk about it. I’m not scared.
I started a support group for women who didn’t have any support from their families. What often happens is that when you tell your husband you’re diagnosed with HIV, he will leave you, or divorce you, or chase you away from home. If we are alone in a room and we are only women, we can talk about everything. We are free to be open about our status, to share our emotions and our difficulties.
It’s better now. Gone are the days when people living with HIV were not allowed to be included in the community, in ceremonies. They would stigmatize you, discriminate against you, and be scared of you. But nowadays there are campaigns that show that a person living with HIV is a normal person. He’s your brother, your sister, your lover. Now my community doesn’t have a problem with me cooking for them, even for big ceremonies like weddings and funerals. They love me a lot. Some even tell me that I inspire them.