There are few words lovers dread than the phrase “We need to talk”. For Bernard Mwololo, 37, who was born with HIV, it meant disclosing his status and facing a potential lover fleeing.
He was rejected five times, but he kept the faith and remained optimistic that in due time, he would find love, and a partner to share life with despite his HIV status.
The data entry manager, who works with a Nyumbani Outreach Centre, says repeated rejection almost led him into depression, throwing him off-balance.
“My first love and rejection happened when I was 20 after I left Nyumbani Children Home, my home since I was eight. I loved her, but she rejected me when I told her my status,” said Mwololo, adding that he was so traumatised, stigmatised and depressed to the point of almost losing hope of ever getting a girlfriend.
However, a recollection that his caregiver had told him, hit him hard when he was about to give up - that he should strive to live a full life, despite the challenges on the way, “yet here I was, a dejected man in love”.
The same script played on his love life four more times.
After much heartache, he learnt to dust himself each time, and by the third time, he decided to help himself and others. This inspired him to come out and talk openly about HIV and relationships.
In 2016, he fell in love again. By then, he was 29. He declared his love to the woman he was convinced had won her heart.
“I took time to explain that though I was HIV positive, I was born with the virus, but through medication and living healthily, I have survived the virus, had my education (he is a graduate), and I was now working,” says Mwololo. He thought he would turn around his ‘single and looking’ relationship status.
He says he explained to the woman that with prevention medication (PrEP), in the market, they would live as a discordant couple. After a lot of persuasion, finally, the woman agreed to be his fiancée.
This was his happiest day in a long time. Thereafter, the two moved in together to live as a couple, and for the next few months, they lived a blissful life.
The second happiest day of his life was the day he welcomed his daughter who remains “the apple of my life and the best thing to have happened in my life”.
However, things took a turn soon after the birth of their baby, and the marriage and relationship ended due to irreconcilable differences.
The separation had a profound negative effect on him and many times he found himself in a retrogressive position, where he did not care about what happened to him anymore.
His love life took a positive turn when he found a partner through social media.
“I met Violet Mukabana, my fiancée, through my social media HIV live shows, where I create awareness on the virus to give survivors hope and demystify the stigmatisation,” says Mwololo.
He says for two months Mukabana kept engaging him, and before he knew it, they were dating.
He describes her as the most understanding woman he has ever met.
“Through her, I am living my dream of finally finding love and a family,” he says.
As a “World AIDS Day” gift and a reminder of their love, they decided to share his social media platforms to talk about HIV, but the “biggest gift was her acceptance of my proposal and consent to move in with me to start our family life journey together,” says an elated Mwololo.
“I am optimistic that we stand a chance of making this a permanent relationship and I believe this is the last time Mwololo will be looking for a lifetime partner, as I too, am committed to seeing that it works out,” says 26-year-old Mukabana, who is living positively with the virus.
Mukabana, a business lady however, is quick to point out that whatever happens, the love flame and bond that they share as a couple was not in vain.
She has a message for those living with HIV, particularly to her social media followers – “You can never give up on your dream to find happiness”.
Born in Kwale County, in 1987, Mwololo recalls his challenged childhood, due to his HIV status.
He says being born with HIV, he has lived all his life albeit positively with the virus. He says his parents were HIV positive and they passed on because at that time there were no ARVs.
Later, he was taken to Nyumbani Children’s Home by relatives because they could not access or afford his medication and school fees.
“One of the privileges in my life is living in Nyumbani, where I have spent the better part of my life, something I will forever be grateful for, as living here, meant that I was taken care of, because there were medics, from general doctors to specialists and nutritionists. If it was not for Nyumbani, I would not be where I am today,” he says.
He says growing up in the Nyumbani community made him and others understand their situation and accept themselves, as they were accepted and shown love and support. He recollects that many did not survive the wave back then and that he was not swept by the wave.
Mwololo and Mukabana are social media HIV activists. They take time to create awareness through social media platforms or mainstream media platforms where they talk about HIV. They do this because they want to fight stigma and discrimination.
“It is shocking that in this era of information technology, a lot of people are being stigmatised and discriminated against due to their HIV status,” says Mukabana.
Mwololo adds that their social media activism gives hope to hundreds of HIV victims, giving them peace within themselves to live comfortably without having to hide their status or hide their medication because they fear stigmatisation.
The father to one daughter goes by the name ‘Bena Softy’ on social media, while the confident and daring Mukabana uses the name, Violet Mukabana.