Tell us about yourself.
I was born HIV-positive to a discordant couple for me. I often refer to the virus as a little guest. In a family of five children, it’s just me and my deceased younger brother who were born with the virus. I was diagnosed with HIV when I was eight and started taking ARVs when I turned 13.
How was it like growing up as a teenager taking ARVs?
I was okay with it since nothing much was being said at the time about HIV/Aids. My parents told me not to disclose my status to anyone. And I did not. However, in Form Three, I was transferred to a boarding school and the rules were that every student had to disclose underlying health issues to the matron. The matron came to know of my status because she kept my drugs and this really affected me.
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What was your experience after completing school?
I was hit by the tough reality of living with HIV due to subsequent experiences. For instance, I had wanted to pursue a course in either cabin crew or radio broadcasting, but those I turned to for advice discouraged me because of my health status. I later settled for a course in community development.
Did you also try to find an alternative cure for your ailment?
Yes. In 2011, when Babu wa Loliondo was trending, I asked my parents to take me to him for a cup of his magic drink to see whether I could get cured. Self-stigma was eating me up and I wanted to feel normal like other children my age.
Did your parents agree to your request?
Yes. My mother agreed and took me to Babu. I took the concoction which tasted like hot water mixed with herbs. When we travelled back, I was so excited and even announced to my relatives that I was fully cured.
What happened next?
After taking the Loliondo concoction, I stopped taking my ARVs for two years. Unfortunately, my health started deteriorating and when I was tested, I turned out to be positive again.
How did you feel after learning that you were still positive?
I was angry and distressed because I really wanted to be ‘normal’ like other girls. My hopes were shattered and I became disappointed that Babu’s drink couldn’t cure me yet in mind, it was the only available cure at the time.
When did you decide to accept and live with your status?
When I was 23 years old, I announced my status publicly and received huge support from people. HIV was and still is a big issue that people are afraid to talk about. So when I came out, I decied to offer a support system for many people.
What is the worst thing about living with HIV?
Stigmatisation is still the worst thing that I have encountered. Be it self-stigma or public stigma, they all come back to eat me up sometimes.
Do you plan to settle down and start a family?
Of course, yes! When the time is right, I plan to settle down, although I am currently not dating. My past boyfriends didn’t have a problem with my status. It’s the hit-and-run kind of men who disappear, never to be seen or heard again, when I disclose my HIV status. Men keep hitting on me and the challenge is that I don’t know what their true intentions are. I don’t know if they want a serious relationship or are just interested in sex.
Tell us about your initiative.
I run ‘A Beautiful Story Initiative’ that encourages behavioural change and supporting HIV-positive people. Through this, I am part of a global committee - the UN Women Taskforce Beijing Plus 25 - where I represent people living with HIV/Aids.
What lessons have you learned so far?
That HIV is not a death sentence. With self-acceptance and taking your drugs consistently, you will lead a hopeful life.