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.