Last weekend I was busy doing my weekly thorough cleaning, when I stumbled upon something chilling. I normally go room by room tidying things up.
So when I was tidying up stuff in my house girl Eshe’s room which she shares with my daughter Tasha, that’s when I spotted a suspicious brown paper. A cocktail of medicines stuffed neatly under her bed.
I looked at them closely and immediately knew what they were. Anti RetroVirals (ARVs). Being an NGO person, I can smell ARVs from a kilometre away. There is something so striking about these meds unlike the kawaida ones.
Like all mothers, my initial reaction was shock and anger. I immediately stopped what I was doing and sat on the floor staring blankly at the drugs. A floodgate of questions went through my mind while I sat on the cold floor. Tears welled down my eyes as I started to imagine all the wrong things that could have happened, given the current reality.
“Is she really sick, ama these drugs are for somebody else?”
“But she looks so well, I have never even heard her coughing...”
“Is that why she is a widow?”
“But if she’s sick, why didn’t she tell me she was HIV positive when I was employing her yet she knows I have small children?”
“What if ....”
As my mind went deep into this abyss of endless questions, that still small voice jolted me back to my senses. Perhaps I was being too harsh on Eshe. Looking at her situation with the lens of an enlightened community health worker, clearly there was no crime the poor woman had committed.
She was just a worker who happens to be HIV positive. And an exceptional worker she was.
A few weeks ago I even wrote about the Eshe as a diligent and affectionate worker, who had brought such order and tranquility in my house. To add on, she had such a warm and kind heart, I do not think she would put my children’s lives at a risk.
And since she came to my house she was in such good health, her status had never affected her work delivery.
“And why was I condemning her for not telling me her HIV status, yet my employer had not subjected me to such discrimination? Why the double standards?”
After that moment of truth, I wiped my tears and stood up. I decided that despite her status, I was not going to fire her. The goodness is that after I spoke with my husband, he also saw sense in my decision.
That same day, I also had a lengthy talk with Eshe. She explained to me that she chose not to tell me about that painful truth because she knew that once she came clean, I would not hire her, like most mums.
She poured out her heart to me how she had lost several job offers because of disclosing her status.
By choosing not to fire Eshe, the message I am sending is NO to stigma and discrimination among persons living with HIV.
The writer is a married working mother of a toddler boy and a pre-school girl. She shares her experience of juggling between career, family and social life.