My Story: A Two-Part Series, Written by a Positive Woman

Thursday, August 16, 2018

My Story: A Two-Part Series, Written by a Positive Woman

Part One

I first heard of my HIV positive test result on June 7, 1994.I was 38 almost 39, married with three children.I lived in Harare, Zimbabwe and I was not sick.I had taken the test for a life insurance policy application as a standard requirement and had requested the lab to send a copy of the result to my GP for my own information.

Being called to the doctor’s rooms for the result was frightening enough.It had to be a bad report because why would I be asked to go there?Or was the doctor just being professional by not telling me the good result over the phone?I saw fear on his face and perhaps that was why he did not do a post-test counselling, not that I had had a pre-test counselling.He just told me it was positive and that my insurance application had been declined. I was so shocked, time stopped for me.It was like I went into a stupor.While I was like that he told me to kneel down for prayer. He said this was a curse from God. I have never been able to remember the exact words of his prayer. It was like I couldn’t hear anything. I remember his parting words though.He said “never talk about this to anyone!”It made sense to me.Talking about it would confirm the result which I desperately wanted to believe was wrong and yet my very fear confirmed it was true.

Fear is what I remember as the dominant emotion.Driving home that day, it was like all the insides of my stomach had been scooped out and I was going to pass out. I had to stop the car once to try and calm myself.I was so frightened but I could not cry.It was a freezing fear.When I got home I told Tashaya, my husband.I will never know whether he already knew about his status or not.He never said anything. He just sat down in the most dejected way I had ever seen before.For the rest of that day I fought hard to remain functional but I must have looked like a zombie. None of the children seemed to notice anything was wrong or maybe they did and I was too shocked to notice?

The next morning, I got up feeling so alone.I could not pray.It was like God had pulled the carpet from under my feet. But I could not address God and tell him that.Anger with God did not agree with the image I had in my mind about what I believed my relationship with God was.

Was I not a born again Christian who was a church leader?Was my family not the example of faith? Was I not the woman with the incredible testimony of how God had healed my husband from a near fatal accident only six years earlier?Did AIDS even have a place in the life of Christians? Why did God bring this cruel reminder of my husband’s infidelity now?Had I not forgiven him of that and successfully managed to retain our family dignity in the extended family, community, church and society? The questions kept on coming. They wouldn’t stop and I was afraid of death!What would my children do?My son was 16 turning 17 and still had another year in high school. I also had two daughters, 13 and 6.They didn’t know that their parents were dying!When had I been infected?Did my 6 year-old baby also have it?She had been a small baby.Was it because of AIDS?

That became my life.I walked about with this elephant sitting on my chest and with no one to talk about it meaningfully. Was meaningful-talk even possible? My husband had had a car accident in December 1988 and had sustained brain injuries which had changed his personality.He had become a dependant, needing my support although physically he looked normal.He could not go back to his former work as an executive in a multinational organisation.That left little room to share emotionally with him.I loved him but he had become much younger than his biological age intellectually. Holding the family together and maintaining our social status with much reduced income was hard enough.Now this test result threatened to destroy what was left of our dignity!This was the state within which we were going to leave our young children after our pending death.

A few years earlier our national leaders had taken a political decision to deny that HIV existed in our country.Doctors knew little about the condition.But in 1994, bill boards with “AIDS KILLS” had begun to appear. There was no organised helpful information for the public.I had witnessed a funeral where the deceased was buried in a body bag.That was the picture that stuck most in my mind.So in my heart I resolved to plan for death and to plan for my children’s future although I was not able to disclose to them.

I retained a near normal functionality at home, at church and at work and went about things with a smile on my face.No tears but in deep grief.Physically I was still well until I developed an enlarged heart four months later in October.Death became even more real for me and by the looks of it, I was going to die leaving the children with their intellectually disabled father, who seemed physically well at the time.I panicked and began to seek answers from the God.With increased fear came anger that nearly choked me.

The question uppermost in my heart was how can an innocent woman get HIV?I decided to take time away from home just to content with God. It was with this question that I travelled to a rural settlement called Mutemwa to the north east of Harare.What was clear in my mind was that I was innocent and I was getting a raw deal which I did not deserve.By implication, I was the righteous one and that gave me the right to judge my husband.Was this not what all men were like? Yet Tashaya had been my friend.He was not like my father who had been physically abusive to my mother.I had married a friend.Or hadn’t I? I married him for love. How dare he betray my trust! And where was God in all this?I had also given Him my trust and now my life was falling apart.I dared him to explain it to me.

Written by a Positive Woman