When the result came back and it was positive, I looked at it but couldn’t cry – as my mother was right there; and I couldn’t tell her. Instead, I later told my big sister, she cried and I cried. When you get a result like that you don’t forget because at that time all you can think about is dying.
It was 2015 when I got sick: no appetite, fever and I was losing weight. I wasn’t getting any better so my mom took me to the hospital. The doctor gave me painkillers and something for the fever and sent me home. But, the fever didn’t go and I was still sick. It was then that the doctor decided to do an HIV test. I felt sure that I couldn’t have HIV, because I was practising safe sex.
I was admitted to hospital the same day of the test – depressed and having suicidal thoughts. I didn’t know what to do. I called my brother and told him. But I still couldn’t tell my mother.
Depressed and suicidal
I was in hospital for three weeks, and when I came out I was still sick and still feeling like it was the end of the world, that I was going to die – and that no one cared.
At home I got support from siblings but I still cried myself to sleep every night. I wanted to kill myself for sure. I told my partner a couple weeks later, he couldn’t believe it, but he stuck around. Then I told my other brother – who was always supportive and always had my back.
My family has never left my side. For that I am lucky, because for many young women and girls I meet, that’s not the case.
Becoming an Eve for Life mentor
I remember going to the social worker when I went to the clinic for my medication, and I was referred to EVE for Life. To be honest I really didn’t want to go. I was thinking about the end. I was thinking: I don’t want any support – it was the end of the world and ‘A dead me dead now’.
The first day I went to EVE for Life, I didn’t know anybody, but being there wasn’t so bad. I laughed, I communicated with others and just to know that I wasn’t the only one made my heart feel warm. After the first day, I knew I had to go back and I kept making new friends almost every time I went. I had no more suicidal thoughts and gained back all the weight I wanted! Most importantly, I learnt that I am more than my HIV status. I can live a full life and pursue my dreams; but I must adhere to my medication, practice proper nutrition and safe sex.
I was a mentee then and now I’m a mentor mom and peer link. EVE for Life changed my life – I have support, I have friends who are now my best friends; and I have knowledge. Knowledge is very empowering. If I feel down I call some of my co-workers or Aunty Joy, who is EVE for Life’s Director of Impact (with responsibility for Programmes), and we laugh. All that sounds simple, but that support, is very important to me, and it’s like all my problems go away.
HIV positive and my future is bright
Because of what I’ve been through, because of what I still go through, I can tell my mentees about all the issues they will have with their medication, suicidal thoughts, and not wanting to eat. They know that I’ve been there and now I’m with them. EVE for Life made that difference for me and I’m proud to be able to give back and support others.
I love to see improvement, I tell my mentees everyday it’s not easy, but it will get better – I try to give them advice, I call them nightly; some prefer text; I see them at monthly meetings or I visit them at the clinic.
My future is bright – I don’t think less of myself – I love myself and being HIV positive is my normal. Honestly, there are times when I don’t remember, and the only time I really remember is if I go on the internet; or see the pill bottle. When that happens, I say, ‘Well, life is great!’