Wednesday, 18 July 2007

I am only human

After posting the piece below just this morning, I received information about the death of my friends dad. Tragic road accident. We have been very close families, and I referred to him as daddy when addressing him. Doesn't make my day any better. Well, I wasn't feeling that great to begin with, but now there is a real reason. I have also realised that there are times I will feel great, and there are times I will feel really bad... and it's all part of life. Even really healthy people have their 'bad days', so what makes me think I am any special. I am only human.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

A journey of many turns

It's been a rollercoaster of feelings, thoughts and activities through the night... but that's no surprise. First, a series of earth tremors have been felt in Nairobi since Saturday, leading to a major panic last night with rumours that a major earthquake was imminent. Most residents spent half the night outside their homes (I wonder how life-saving this is). Do understand, we have been blessed enough never to have experienced real earthquakes, just slight tremors so when such news do the rounds, some of us pack up and head to the gates, open fields and some to our folks. Well, that passed and reassurance came through the airwaves this morning.
I did manage to drag my sister to yesterdays AA meeting where she sat through listening to our little chit-chats, saying nothing all the while. I was trying hard to read her mind, without necessarily looking at her. I don't want to fill her with any guilt, and I don't want any mercies, wont want to torment her soul... just want her to understand that we are fine... and we all have each other when here. But, what I expect of her is not what I feel. I feel guilty, and I am on and off in self-pity mode - I can't help it, I just find myself there. My soul is tormented with issues, several issues:
During the meeting yesterday, I met a widow who has been doing a small business to support herself and her three children, she comes for the meeting not for financial support but for moral support. But she woke up to a razed down business... their go-downs had caught fire in the night and everything was gone. She spent the whole day sitting in the yard, contemplating her next step, and soon it was time for the meeting and there she was. Yet, we didn't learn about this by her own contribution, someone in the meeting had learnt of the fire and knew that one of us worked in or around the area... that's how we got to know. There is the grandma with several grandchildren under her care. Yes, she is strong enough to work, but if young, strong graduates have problems getting jobs, where would she head to. Her presence in the room has come to mean one thing to me... food for the kids. Pity it has to come to this. This lady did her job with her kids, brought them up and was done with it. But AIDS has taken her back to the drawing boards, this time it's her grandchilren she has to toil for, only a little late in her life.
As we wound up the meeting, I looked at the mother of three and saw this blank stare on her face. I walked up to her and held her hand, with a very beautiful forced smile decorating my face. I was not in the mood for smiles, to tell the truth, but I was ready to force one if it was going to make a difference. I told her not to worry, that things were going to be alright.
"Will they?" she asked, as if talking to herself.
"Yes, they will. Just hold on to your inner strength." I was glad I was able to spare an equivalent of US$3.00 Believe it or not, this is food for her and the kids for almost a week. She was so grateful and hugged me tight, but I couldn't wait for her to let go and move on, so I could release the burning tears. I eventually left with my sister by my side, parting ways outside. I did what I could. For her. Yesterday. But what happens next week? What happens to the others?
At least I have come to realise one thing, that this is not just a journey, it's not just my journey... it's one heck of a journey with lots of people and issues on the road with me. One minute I have the drive and energy to hit that hill, and I do it with zest to the top, then the next minute I am drawn of all energy and willpower to even take one extra step... that's what it felt like this morning.

Live or die... is it about where you live? No!

I was blog-surfing over lunch and came across various interesting blogs... most full of encouraging messages and it touched me to see people reaching out across the oceans. Then a saying on this blog, texasinafrica.blogspot, caught my eye and won't leave my mind. The quote is by Bono, and goes... "where you live should not determine whether you live or die..."
My mind is now on marathon and I am developing an idea that I hope to share with you in due time. In the meantime, I have just called my sister and asked her to free her evening... I want her to join me in the AA meeting today, just to let her meet my new 'family'. I still feel so elated that I opened out to her and she is by me... I cannot begin to tell the kind of reactions I was expecting. Well, none of the bad stuff. All good right now.
Forgot to mention that I have started on one medication whose name is either too long or technical for me to remember... I am so not used to it that I even forgot it in the house this morning so will have to catch up on the dose in the evening.

It's a Journey of many

I attended yesterdays AA meeting and had a chance to personally meet some of the ladies in attendance. I had heard their stories, and wanted to have a one-to-one chat with someone. After the meeting was wound up, I aproached a young looking woman and introduced myself. She told me she had noticed me on my first meeting, mainly because there were not many young people joining up. True, most were older and elderly women, some here on behalf of their children and grandchilren. I asked Josephine how long she had been attending the meeting and she told me it's been almost an year.
It had been a total 3 years since she had been diagnosed with HIV. She had decided to go for a test after the death of her boyfriend and, as she said, that kind of saved her life as she was now able to take better care of herself in terms of eating and social behaviour. She is still not sure who had passed the virus to the other, but that was beyond her concern right now. She was more interested in living a changed life from what she had before. Before hooking up with her late boyfriend, Josephine was a prostitute in the streets of Nairobi, drawn to the trade by the biting poverty in her home. Infact, she had met her guy in the streets, becoming a regular client and eventually pursuading her to leave the streets and live with him. They had been together for only two years before he passed on. In the second year of their relationship, Tom, her late boyfriend, had fallen ill several times, suffering from a range of diseases before finally getting the famous TB that all AIDS patients are said to have here. It's called 'the famous TB' because TB is almost always what doctors diagnose here before coming up with HIV/AIDS. I am not sure if it is by chance or cover. These days, when someone is in hospital and you explain that it is TB, you are sure to attract some 'oh-no' looks. It's like a sighting of a cloud before the rains... it's when you see smoke before a fire, it's an itch before a sore spot.
Anyway, after her boyfriend's funeral, and knowing only too well about the famous TB, Josephine decided to go for a test and there she learnt that she was HIV+.
I asked her how her family had taken the news and, with a sad look, she said not very well.
"I still can't believe it," she said. "I sold my body out in the streets in order to feed my family and now that I am sick they do not want to see or hear of me." She explained how her father had dragged her out of the house in the middle of the night, after he had come home late and her mother passed the news to him. She is still not sure about her mothers and siblings stand, if they are agianst her out of the fear they have of their father, or if it was a genuine reaction that they didn't want her in their lives.
After learning about this group, it had become her family. Here she gets temporary jobs whenever they are available, or someone to provide a meal when the jobs are not available... it is here that she has found solace amongst those like her... those on the same journey as her.

Sister Love

I am in a state of mixed feelings right now, trying to seive and rid of the bad feelings of self pity, anxiety and depression and keep the good few. But I am alright... I know I will be.
I decided to start breaking my news to my family, one at a time, and being closest to my sister, she was the easiest target to start with. So I called her up and asked that we meet. I was torn between meeting in a private place, so I could cry my heart out if I needed to, and meeting in a public place, so she couldn't cry her heart out if she needed to. Eventually, we met up at a private place. I didn't beat around the bush... went straight to the point.
"I am sick," I told her, and went into detail of what, when, where...
To say she was in shock would be a principal understatement, explaining her denial would sound funny, but telling of her understanding is what warms my heart. She first thought I was kidding, and started to giggle, then told me to stop making fun of such a serious issue. Then she realised I was neither laughing nor smiling... she asked that I go for several other tests at monthly or bi-monthly intervals just to be sure. I told her I was sure of what I was saying and further tests won't prove otherwise.
"But you can't be... it can't be" she said, fighting back tears.
"I am."
"Why you? You are good. You are my sister."
"Who would you rather it be?" I asked her. "And why not me?"
Even I didn't believe I was saying this, but it gave me a chance to be brave and so I explained to her that being in this situation does not and will not making me any worse a sister. That I hope it will only help in making me stronger for her and many other people. I also explained that wishing it was someone else was mean (thought that's what I have been wishing for the last number of weeks, I must confess), and that the someone else has family just like me. Actually, talking to my sister made me see things from a different platform. It was no longer all about me, me and some more me.
"Have you told the others?" she asked, the 'others' being the rest of the family.
"No, I havent."
"Will you?"
"Yes, eventually."
"Do you want me to tell them? When you are ready?"
"Yeah. Just let me know before you do and leave the boy out for the moment." 'The boy' being my son. I needed him counselled and totally prepared. I wanted to be sure that he could live with it and still love himself, and me.
We parted ways after some long hours, not saying much in the final few minutes. Then, last night she called and asked that we have an early breakfast together before going to work. I agreed.
"I realised I didn't say things that I should have said to you the other day," she said to me this morning. "I still love you and will be here for you. Just let me know any time you need me for anything. And never leave me out of anything in your life. We will go through this together."
"Thanks," I said, finally letting go of the tears. I knew she had been thinking about me since we met, and that had given her a chance to go through all I had told her.
I told her about this blog and she said she would go through it.
I have never seen my sister cry so much before, and I felt good about it!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Office matters.

It's tea break at work, and instead of going for a cup of tea, I've decided to come to an internet cafe for a quick update. My medical file was sent to the senior boss (thank goodness not HR) as required. I had totally forgotten that the organisation has a right to my medical profile, and since it was a company doctor I saw during and after my miscarriage, he was obligated to send the information to the office... attention management. What happened to privacy?
The boss asked that I see him this morning - that was the first call I received the second I sat at my desk. It was like his secretary could see me through infra-red? lights (what do you call vision through walls?) and was waiting for me to sit my bum then whooosh! Rrring! Rrring!
"Morning dear. The boss wants to see you now."
"What about? Do you know?"
"Not a clue. Didn't tell me anything else but to ask you to come and see him."
"Alright. I'm on my way up."
Walked into his office and he had a warm smile... what a smile to start my day... hope it's an early bonus... good old boss, eh?
"Goodmorning Miss. How are we today?"
"Morning Sir. I am fine, thanks." Keep it short... always the advice when speaking to the boss on something you don't yet know (even what you know, just keep it short)
"I will cut to the chase. I received your medical file from the doctor..."
Darkness. My head is spinning. I lean onto the chair and sit. I can;t hear what he is saying. I struggle to stay upright and slowly regain the little lost conciousness.
"...if there is anything the company can do... any way that we could make life easier for you..." he is saying.
I am fully alert now, and hiding a smile. I am thinking... a good increment never hurt.
"Who else knows," I ask him.
"Such information comes straight to me, and I am the only one privy to the file. Not even personnel has access, unless there is a real need or an emergency. How are you handling it?"
"Not very well at first, but I am getting round to it... slowly. Some days I am fine, trying to have my old normal days, others I am just done in."
"You are aware that the company insurance does not cover for HIV/AIDS related illnesses and treatment due to the high costs?"
"Yes, I know. My only request right now is that this information doesn't go beyond your office. I would rather handle my situation my way."
"Ofcourse. Wish you well."
"Thank-you. Have a good day, Sir."
I went back to my desk and spend a minute going through what I had just been discussing with my boss. I didn't think it was right for information as private as my medical situation being sent around to the office in manila envelopes, and I din't think it was the company's business to know anything that it doesn't intend to take care of, but then I felt lucky that the discussion I had just had was all there is to it. I have read about employees being given the sack after being diagnosed as HIV+ and/or AIDS and, anyway, I had agreed to the company terms when I took up my job. Thinking about my son and my own medication, I cannot start to think of taking up legal issues or quitting... we both need every penny and that's just how it is.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Psychic or what?

I was thinking about this earlier today, trying to place my finger on what exactly it's about. The day I went to an AIDS programme office, the lady behind the desk knew that I was there due to personal HIV/AIDS issues. Though she didn't directly tell me so at first, there was no doubt that she knew it was me I was there for. Then, Sunday I go to the childrens home, and the duty manager can just about tell that I have some issues with HIV/AIDS... well, that's why I was in the home in the first place, but for her to know that I was infected... psychic?
Then there was the rude, loud woman receptionist at the VCT center, who knew that 'everyone else was there for the same reason as me'. This one was kind of obvious, for why else would I be sitting/waiting at the reception of a VCT centre? I wasn't passing time or on a tea break, I was waiting to see an advisor who, for my information, is not a financial, relationship or academic advisor. Anyway, so much for trying to get some cover. But, you know what, I don't feel as bad right now that a couple of people picked out my issues. That saved me the agony of wondering where to start from or if to tell them at all. Like the lady at the childrens home... of what good would I be whining about my situation when she had a home full of kids that all needed her attention, mostly orphans, yet I am a totally grown woman with a very healthy son and should take a grip of myself. I want to go back to the home and volunteer. I want to go back and be the mommy the kids are lacking. I want to go back with my son, and introduce him to the world of HIV/AIDS and how other infected and affected kids are dealing with it... have him see how well they are carrying on with life. This might actually be a good starting point, for him to join me on my journey... he still doesn't know, you see.
Back to the psychic... Just how did they know? I guess it's something to do with spending time with people of a certain nature. I guess it's being part of the flock that makes you recognise those in your fold. The spot on my face is just about gone, and I am gaining back the weight that I lost out of stress and worry, so I do not have the basic, obvious signs that would attract undue attention.

Children, children, and more children

I had some free time left on Sunday afternoon, after I decided not to pick my son from my folks, so I headed to a well known childrens home in the city. I had thought of going in the cover of a journalist, then thought of being a student on a research programme, but decided to go under no cover whatsoever, and knew that I needed not have to give personal details.
I arrived just in time for their afternoon cuppa and was invited to sit with the kids (after meeting with the day manager) and chat over the cup of tea.
This is a home catering for over 100 kids, most orphaned by HIV/AIDS, most being HIV positive, a couple in their 'last stages' of AIDS and afew brought here because their families cannot take up the burden of extra mouths to feed. The oldest of them was one Maina, a teen from a nearby shanty town. Maina has been here for most of his life, having arrived as a toddler, dropped by the gate by an unknown person and found there later by an official checking in for work. He was diagnosed as being HIV+ then but has lived to tell and re-tell his story.
Maina is now in his last year of secondary education and intends to enroll for a medical degree in one of the local universities. Though I kinda knew what was coming, I still asked him why medicine.
"Why not?" he replied in question.
"Have you been in touch with any relatives so far?" I asked him.
"I don't know them, but they know me. They brought me here, so they should come and seek me out. Why should I go out of my way and use precious time in search of people who didn't want me or don't care for me, yet I have a complete (he sweeps his hand across the room) family here that truly cares and loves me. This is enough for me. I am happy."
I was touched. So young yet so ready so life. He has taken what life has thrown at him, the good and the bad, and used it all to his advantage, with no self pity at all, and marching on.
I turned my attention to a little girl who sat on my left, a multi-racial girl who was playing with toys as she took her milk.
"Hi. What's your name?" I asked her with all tenderness.
"Naomi. And what's yours?" she asked in return.
"Why are you here? Have you come to live with us?" she went on, after I had given her my real name.
"I have come to visit you. Would you like me to live with you?"
"Yes, you are welcome. You can share my bed."
"That's very nice, thank-you. And why are you here?" I asked her.
"Because I am very sick and I need the nurse to give me medicine every day so that I don't die like mummy."
"Mummy is in heaven," I told her. "God is taking care of her and she watches over you every day." I tried to fight back the bloody tears.
"Mummy is very pretty. I will show you her photo. It is on my bed."
"And you are very pretty," I told her as I stood to go outside. No point having them see me cry.
I walked to the end of the field, not realising I was heading for the cemetry. There was a freshly dug grave... looked like the grounds were yawning for the next victim.
"That's for James. He passed on two nights ago. We bury him tomorrow. Sometimes the families claim for the bodies for burial, sometimes there is just no one and we rest them here." I heard the duty manager say behind me, as she pointed at the open grave.
"Great" I said. "Just great. Forsaken in life and even in death."
"Do you have any children?" She asked me.
"Yes. One son." Though I should be expecting my second, I said to myself.
"Does he know?"
I turned to face her, and I felt the tears well up again.
"Know what?" I knew I was now getting on the defensive, which was a clear give-away.
"Never mind." She said as she turned around to walk back to the buildings.
"No. He doesn't know." I said after her. She turned and smiled.
"I know it's difficult, but he will be fine. You will be fine."
"How can you be so sure? How do you know?"
She pointed at the kids who were now leaving the dining for the play grounds, then pointed at herself and said, "This is how I know."
I still felt like crying, but didn't. And I didn't feel too bad coz I hadn't been to church.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

(Where) Do we draw the line?

I am just coming to the realisation of the many things that happen in the world, relating to HIV/AIDS. I will admit to being abit... just abit, ignorant of HIV and AIDS before my direct contact with it, and I tell you I am yet to learn so many things that will directly affect my life. One of the comments on a previous post is a guy who has been off medication for (about) 4 years and still counting, for insurance reasons. I would have thought such an act suicidal, but what do I know? I am still gathering facts and information, have not started on any medication yet (still need advice on this - have an appointment next week with a doctor charging an arm and a leg). Other comments have made me realise how possible it is to still live a full life... I mean full in terms of time/duration... I used to think it was like Ebola, a poisonous snake bite, or such, that will probably kill you in days, if you are lucky. How naiive?!
Then, I have come to the realisation that certain communities will rather bury you alive, throw you to the forest and totally forget about you than be associated with someon with HIV/AIDS. A father will throw his wife out, children and all, choose not to have a life with them, because his wife has tested HIV+
Some things you won't even know if, or where, to draw the line. How do you react to a person who has killed another to prevent a 'likelyhood' of contracting HIV? Read on:

I killed to defend my dignity
Publication Date: 2007/07/08
Killing a person attracts harsh penalties for the culprit, but Mr Martin Gathuru Gitau, a 25-year-old taxi driver, did it and got away with it – legally.
Mr Gitau admitted before trial judge Justice Muga Apondi that he killed a 36-year-old engineer but was released after the court found his action justifiable in the circumstances under which it took place.
Sitting on a bench in the corridors of the High Court building, Nairobi, minutes after securing his freedom, the tall, bespectacled man recounted the events that led him to remand at the Industrial Area GK Prison in Nairobi. It all began at around 1 a.m. on March 25, 2006. Mr Gitau was drunk.
“I was walking home from a pub in Kileleshwa, Nairobi, when a car came to a halt and the motorist offered me a lift. I regret I accepted the offer,” he said, blinking frequently.
The motorist was a neighbour with whom he had never spoken before. The man, who introduced himself only as Solomon, was also drunk. After a few minutes’ drive, he invited Mr Gitau to his house to drink more beer and “hot drinks.” Mr Gitau said the man was so persuasive he found it hard to turn him down. They went into the Kuguru Flats and, on entering the house, Solomon locked the door and kept the key in his pocket. Gitau found this suspicious.
“Under ordinary circumstances, I would expect one to leave the key at the door,” he said. After five minutes Solomon brought a bottle of beer which was almost empty and offered it to his guest.
“I declined and argued that I would do so if he sipped first,” he said.
“You are unruly,” his host said. “It doesn’t matter, your consciousness will not hinder me from doing whatever I intended to do if you became unconscious.” Solomon began caressing him, promising him a lot of money if he “cooperated”.
“He threatened to sodomise me,” Mr Gitau recalled. “I swore that he would do it over my dead body.”
Fight ensued
He said the man grabbed him and wrestled him to the floor, and a fight ensued. Neighbours, attracted by the commotion, peeped through the window. They saw Mr Gitau pick up a stool and hit the other man on the head. He fell to the floor unconscious. The neighbours called the police, and Mr Gitau was arrested and taken to Kilimani Police Station.
The injured man was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where he died of head injuries after four days. Mr Gitau remained in police custody for three months before being charged with murdering Solomon Wangwe Thiga.
Mr Gitau, unable to afford a lawyer, got the services of Nairobi lawyer Solomon Wamwayi after Justice Apondi ordered the Registrar to find him one. He denied the charge but pleaded guilty to manslaughter. During the trial, the defence lawyer urged the court to consider the circumstances under which the offence was committed.
“In these days of HIV/Aids, and considering that the accused person is not a homosexual, he did what a normal human being would do to avoid sexual assault and danger,” he said. He added that Mr Gitau was remorseful and had even quit taking alcohol.
Passing the judgement, Justice Apondi said Mr Gitau was right to defend his dignity and morality.
“The deceased had no right whatsoever to harass the accused person. This court has also taken judicial notice of the numerous sexual diseases that are now prevalent like HIV and Aids,” the judge said. He noted that the deceased had acted fraudulently and dishonestly by offering Gitau hot drinks with a hidden motive.
“But it was naive and foolish for the accused person to go to a stranger’s flat at around 1 am just for free drinks,” he noted.
Releasing him, Justice Apondi said: “Obviously, the deceased provoked the accused person and can only blame himself for what happened.” He added that he hoped Mr Gitau had learnt his lesson and would “stop following free drinks at midnight.”
Mr Gitau regrets that a life was lost. “But I don’t regret defending my dignity,” he asserts. He is now a born-again Christian, having taken a pastoral course and become a preacher.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

AA meeting and International Womens Conference

I did it. I went for the AA meeting yesterday and... drum roll please... I spoke. Well, it was just my name, my real name (with my head held up high) and the revelation that I am on their journey (with my head bent so low I almost hit the floor). I didn't feel ready to go all the way with the whats, wheres, whoms, whens and hows... and at the end of the meeting, I was glad I hadn't. I would have felt so stupid, after listening to all the other womens heart-breaking stories. Surprising, all attendants were (and have always been) women, though the meeting is open to all persons infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. But, I guess the African man is still too macho to go pouring his heart out, or telling how he has been unfaithful and is now infected...
One woman still seeks help and encouragement on how to tell her husband that she is HIV+. I am not sure when she learnt about her status but, apparently, she hasn't told her husband about. Never mind the fact that, with our cultures and traditions of polygamy and mistresses, it's kind of obvious who brought the virus (No, I am not on a blame game or being a feminist, it's what research, statistics and real life have shown here). Her husband has not gone for a test, and might take alot of convincing to go for one, but she swears she has not been unfaithful, has never had an operation, her last birth was 8yrs ago and all her children, including the last one, have all tested negative... I leave that to rest, for now.
The next lady, a very elderly looking one, was enquiring if there was anything left in the financial kitty as she had ran out of the (approximately) US$2 she had made the previous day. A whisper from the one next to me tells me that this one is not HIV or AIDS infected, but all her five children (2 sons, 3 daughters) had died of the disease, leaving her with 11 grandchildren, two of whom were still toddlers.
There was yet another who had been kicked out of her matrimonial home when her husband learnt that she was HIV+, yet he has totally refused to go for a test himself. She is still seeking legal redress, but obviously very slow when you are on a financial strain (considering that nothing is provided by the government, not even her medication).
There were a few others who made me take a closer look at my life. I have my son, healthy and bouncy, thank Jesus for that, I do not have a husband (it was by choice) to give me the chills that some of these women have, I have a job that, though it's not the best paying, I know might be able to provide for most of my medication once I tighten my belts. I realised that the only thing that has been pulling me down more than gravity itself is my pride... and I know I got lots of it. So, I am not going to drop my pride, I will just have to make better use of it. So I am HIV+, probably from one of exes (I am yet to contact them, I know I should, and I will), and I may be considered an outcast in my community once they know, but I am better than the thief who kills for your hard earned cash, I am better than those raping our sisters and daughters, I am better than our many corrupt politicians and officials who pocket government funds that could otherwise be providing medication to the sick and food to the orphans... I am better than so many of you who will be spitting at me when I come out of my closet. I will come out of my closet, just not today. I have to prepare myself for good cover from you... but it will be one of these fine days. Just not today.
Today, however, I intend to attend the ongoing conference in the city. I think it is the second or third being held in Nairobi, I am not sure. Never paid attention to these things before. I know the venue pretty well, and it's not too far from my work place. I need to come up with a plan of approach... do I get in as press? As a womens group representantive?... Well, lets work that one out. For now, this is what has been in the press about the conference.

Some contact, finally?

I did manage to contact a lady who has been on the journey for 12 years... couldn't believe this. I followed a contact link in the daily papers here whose one of the columnist is an HIV mother to a teenge boy. It wasn't easy... well, not at first.
I had a feeling her secretary must have known why I was there, hence the constant wide smile. Not many people smile that much here... the hot equitorial climate has given most of us a constant frown.
I started off by fidgeting around on the seat, then telling her about 'this friend of mine' who is sick with 'the virus' and I would like to know how to approach and advice her as concerning life, medication, natural well-being.... I went on and on. I don't think she was listening, but she was smiling all through. (What is it with people in this office always smiling?).
When I was finished, she looked at me for a while then said, "Now, forget about your friend for a minute and tell me about you. What has been your biggest fear with AIDS?"
That's when I let it all out. I burst out crying, told her how much I fear for my boy... told her how much I fear telling my family and friends, told her how much I fear being alive coz I don't know how much being sick will make me suffer, then told her how much I fear death right now, for I have never been this close to it (or so I think)... I told her. I went on and on. I let it all out. I had no idea how good it was going to make me feel. Writing on this blog for the few days has made my head feel a little lighter, now even my heart felt much lighter. I finished talking then looked at her and said, "I am sorry." She smiled even wider, came around her desk and gave me one tight hug.
We discussed a number of issues, she referred me to a certain doctor, and she assured me that I could visit him in confidence, she gave me some notes to go through and even invited me to their next AA (AIDS Anonymous) meeting, which is in about an hour from now.
If there is anything about AIDS I have looked forward to in my short journey, it is this. I can't wait to meet the people in this group. I don't think I will be able to share much... even though that might be expected of me, but I do hope to listen and learn from the others. I want to see if they look normal, if they are normal... if they are like me. (I must say that, for a while I have felt alone. I have felt like an alien, like I don't belong in this world, like no one will want to be associated with me anymore. I have felt like dying. I felt like hiding, and I did hide for a while. But now, I think there might be so many things I want to see, and hear, and learn. Because I want to. And because I have the chance. Yeah, I feel encouraged... don't know how long this feeling is going to last, but I might just as well make use of it now.

Monday, 2 July 2007

When the world comes around

This morning, I noticed a spot on my face, on the corner of my mouth, and I thought that the tell-tale signs are here. Now I know that everyone who sees me will start pointing with, "you see, there is another sign of someone with AIDS. Thin and infectious spots on the face."
At the moment, I don't think I will really care if I hear that behind my back, or infront of me at the bus line. Maybe I will care when I hear it, or much after, like when I am asleep in bed. I have become very good at smiling alot in the day and crying alot when alone at night. It's not like I do not have people around me (Thanks Jamie for your encouraging comment and opening your arms to me), I have an extended family, friends, colleagues... lots of people. It's just that they are the very same people I don't want to see at the moment. I don't want to say I am fine and well when asked how I am, for it will be one big lie. Yet, I am still not ready to reveal my current condition. I don't want to be felt sorry for. I don't want anyone crying for me (I am doing enough of that for the world as it is). So, you see, I do have people around me, just not the people I would like to sit and share this with. I need to find my own group, people going through what I am going through, people who have been here before, in the first steps of the journey and been lost like I am. I want to talk to somebody who will not look at me funnily or move his/her seat abit further from me. I want to talk to somebody who will tell me about the drugs that will keep my count healthy... someone in the know. I need to listen to someone who once thought that suicide was the best medicine invented for the HIV/AIDS virus but decided not to be a test guinea-pig... for that's where I was a while ago.
That is why I went into a VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre) today. I found this nice lady at the reception desk who asked how she could help me. There were a number of people at the reception, so I tried to keep my voice low. I told her that I was there to seek advice on issues touching on AIDS.
"Do you seek this advice on your behalf?" She asked me, as loud as she could be.
"Yes, it is for me." I replied, in a still small voice.
"Have you had a test done on you yet?" This woman must be on something, she doesn't notice I am trying to keep this conversation between us.
"Yes, I have had a test."
"What were the results?" she asked.
"What do you think? I am back seeking advice, so what could the results be? Could you try and keep it low, please?" I asked politely.
"Oh don't worry," she tried to assure me, "all these people are here for more or less the same reason as you, so don't feel shy."
"Well, I don't care if they are here to pick their lunch or bury their mothers. I just don't want to share my business around." I was now speaking between clenched teeth.
"I am sorry but this is a public office and..."
I didn't hear the rest, I was already walking out. I felt so mad. Why couldn't she understand? I don't know if I over reacted, but I now find it funny as I narrate the conversation. It definitely wasn't funny then, it was more frustrating than funny. But now I smile as I write this. And I have a funny feeling that there is a whole world out there, waiting to come around if only I will let it. I am getting there. Not today, and I do not promise about tomorrow... but with every day, and with every step I take, I will keep trying to find my place in this new world. For now, the journey continues.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

In search of those on my journey

I have taken the time to go through the internet in search of those on the same journey as me, it's been interesting but the one that really caught my eye is one who shares the same blog name as me, only in wordpress (while I am on blogspot).
Kenn ( about 'coming out' and I admire his courage. The T-shirt he wears tells you all what you may need to know and he has even published a photo of himself on the web. People, I am not even using my real name (Juanita is my pseudo) let alone publishing my photo... yes, I am a coward. Say it. I can take it. Right now, I cannot even imagine facing my own family with the news and I am thankful for little mercies such as the web, for here I can releive my problems and have people like you walking with me, without having to look at me any different as you do not know me physically).
Speaking of coming out, I cannot imagine the reactions from everyone that I would be 'coming out to' and could only wish for a happy and neutral meeting, though I know that's a lot of wishful thinking. My boy is still at my mums and will be there for a while. I would like to use the time on my own, pondering on my next sequence of events.
I will be going to a clinic tomorrow for advice and councelling. I was supposed to have done this days ago, but didn't get around to it. I will also need to learn about medication, what, which, where, when... and I will brave myself to ask about any active groups of people like me (the dying? the infected? the affected? Who the hell are people like me?) that hold anonymous meetings or something like that.
I have lost about 9kg in the last two weeks, mostly out of stress and worry, not illness. I will need to work on that for various reasons, one being stereotype. See what I mean ( As for now, the journey continues. Maybe I am going crazy, but it now seems abit funny. I feel like I am walking along this long winding road, all on my own and when I hear apporaching footsteps, some kind of noise, whatever, I jump into the bush and keep still till all is quiet, then I carry on with my journey. It's a mixture of feelings. I feel alone and in need of someone to walk by me, but I do not want my face seen, my identity out... something like that.

Church, Christianity, and everything else

For a while, I have been pondering about my involvement with the church. I have not been the best church-goer in the recent past, but I remain convinced that I am still a Christian. Failing to go to church does not strip one of the title, does it? It's not like a job where, if you fail to turn up for months on end you are relieved of your duties and are no longer associated with the organisation - at least that's what I think.
Before, I used to go to church both out of duty and to strengthen my Christian faith. Out of duty because I knew my grandma (I always visited her on Sunday afternoons) will forever ask if I have been to church and I was always filled with guilt if I hadn't been. It's like I owed her this one thing. Good for her, for I never forgot to throw a prayer in her direction, she was one of the reasons I was in church anyway. The other reason, stength for my Chrisitan faith, was basically a translation for food for soul. It was always a good feeling to be amongst people who believe in the same thing as you. Felt like we were all there for this one and same reason, all speaking the same but different language but understanding each other alltogether. I always felt the church nourished my faith... wish I could explain that.
Today I sit in church for so many reasons, not sure which are genuine and which are far fetched. Out of duty for my late grandma? Could be. Strengthen my Chrisitan faith? Not sure if I have any faith left in me. Seek consolation, a sense of belonging? Could be, but my eyes sweep across the church and all I see are happy, healthy looking people with no worry in the world. How could I belong among them? Seek forgiveness? Yes. Maybe. But, from what? What did I do wrong? Had I known any better I, surely, would not be in this situation.
My son? Aaah, yes. I know that is one genuine reason I am here. I need God's intervention in the well being of my son. I need to know that he will be alright with and, most especially, without me. I need something done for my son, but I am not sure what. I close my eyes in prayer, but my thoughts wander elsewhere. I start imagining my baby's life without me. I start blaming myself for doing this to him, and start going through the same thing that I have put myself through in the last two weeks. No, I can't do this. I open my eyes, get up slowly and make my way out of the church.
This needs more effort. I can't just wake up one morning and head to church hoping that my mere presence will set things right, that things will go back to normal if I take myself in the middle of religion.
I stop at the door for a minute and look back into the church. "God, I know you are there. Somewhere. Please take care of my boy."

Saturday, 30 June 2007

The journey begins

Actually, the journey started two weeks ago on a very bad note. Being told I am HIV+ wasn't a good start for me, and I don't think it would be a good one for anyone. So many things ran through my mind: My son - how am I going to tell him that mommy is sick and could die any time... poor boy doesn't even know what being sick is, let alone death! My friends - where do I even start? To them, I am this perfect girl, I am the happy-go-lucky one in the group (yeah, right!). My family - dear mama, will she break down? Will it hit her worse than it did me? Papa, will he ever talk to me agian? Will I still be his sweet girl? My big brother, will he want me to ever hold his daughter again, hug her, kiss her? Will he ever want to be identified with me? My young sister, will I still be her role model? Have I let her down? Will she ever take any sort of advice from me again? The community, have I just turned myself into an outcast overnight? Will I be the talk of the village, estates, streets? The world, what does it hold for me?
No, I haven't told anyone about my status. In the two weeks that I have known, I have tried to gather the courage and put the words together but nothin has come of it, I have also tried to commit suicide, but only went as far as buying a rope then realised that I am too much a coward for that, and that I had to, at least, make some arrangements for my boy. I tried to walk the streets with my head high, but everyone who looked at me with a smile appeared to be mocking me, adn I always turned back to my house and cried my eyes dry. Well, today I am out. I am on my way to seek advice and counselling from the experts, the experts who, without shame or remorse, walked in and told me that they had found out why I had the miscarriage. They had no shame, so why should I?
I have decided to rebuild my life, to start over. I need to gather all my remaining strength to see myself through this. I know it will not be easy, and I still have to come to terms with my new life and situation before I even let anyone else through.
So, today, the journey begins. Do not pity me, do not cry for me, please don't point at me... just walk with me.