Mary (not her real name) often made trips to the hospital when she was little.
She was too young to understand what was happening and her mother was hesitant to tell her that she was HIV positive.
When I met her, she greeted me with a firm handshake and apologized for showing up ten minutes late.
We quickly went to a nearby restaurant and ordered a cold drink. She gently dipped her straw into the mug of milkshake and took a sip before settling onto her seat.
She tells me that the interview might ‘go south’ any moment since the subject is quite emotional and she might need time to recollect herself.
When I was little, my mum often took to me to the hospital. From time to time I was down with a cold but I thought it was nothing serious.
By the time I got to Class Six, the trips were more frequent and I had to ask my mum why I was always in hospital yet my pals were outside enjoying their childhood.
“It is at this point that she told me I was HIV positive. I remember how distraught she was when she broke the news to me. Her eyes were teary.
She explained to me that it was not my fault and that she was actually the one to blame since it was a case of mother to child transmission.
At the time, I could not comprehend the magnitude of the situation and my innocent self thought I would be healed within no time. This was not meant to be.
As the years went by, I realized that I had to live with the virus and I had to be on medication daily.
Fast forward to 2018, I have a lovely sister whom I deeply love. I have spent numerous nights at her place but on a certain weekend I noticed something peculiar.
I wonder why it never occurred to me. Ever since I had started going to her place, she had been serving me food on a particular plate.
At first I thought it was part of a set but later I realized that it was the only one.
On this particular day I approached the househelp and asked her why she always served me on that plate.
She confidently said, “Niliambiwa nikuwe nakuwekea chakula hapo.”
These words pierced into my heart like a double-edged sword. For a moment my heart sunk.
This was my blood sister. How could she do this to me? We grew up under the same roof…did I really deserve this?
I never confronted her about it but to be honest, our relationship changed. I could not help it.
I tried to forget it but I couldn’t. I was facing stigmatization from family. It was tough.
I cried myself to sleep every single day. I cried out to God so many times. Why me?
Life had lost meaning. I felt I was a baggage to everyone.
But I vowed that my destiny was in my hands and I had the ability to turnaround my fortunes.
I used all the setbacks I faced as a catapult to achieve all my dreams. I felt lonely but I knew God was on my side.
I dedicated my life to him and slowly things started changing.
I landed a decent job with a top city hotel and made good money. I invested the money in various businesses and boy didn’t they pick.
At times I feel like my status influenced me positively. I am now at a better place… I have been on ARVs too but I am used to them
I am living positively, with a positive mindset and I will do my best on earth until the Almighty calls me home.
At this point, Mary takes a look at me and says, life is like an elevator. Challenges can take you up or pull you down but you are at liberty to choose the button you desire.