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38-Year-Old Khadijat Talks About Her Heavy Burden Of Living With HIV Tp Mark World AIDS Day

38-Year-Old Khadijat Talks About Her Heavy Burden Of Living With HIV Tp Mark World AIDS Day

As the world marks the 2020 World AIDS Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people who are living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, have been boldly coming forward to share their stories.

The theme for the year’s observance is ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact.’

The commemoration of World AIDS Day, which takes place on December 1 every year, is an important opportunity to recognize the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national, and local levels.

Khadijat, a 38-year-old civil servant has described living with the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV as a heavy burden that dissuades potential suitors from marrying her.

She expressed disappointment and concerns that despite an enabling law forbidding stigmatization of any sort against people living with HIV/AIDS, many of the people involved in the hate campaign are the educated class.

In an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Khadijat, who works as an administrative staff in one of Lagos State parastatals, disclosed that the traumatizing experience has made it almost impossible for her to have a normal relationship. She said:

“Being infected with HIV comes with a cost. It is affecting us (PLWHA), relationship-wise.  One minute, you are in a relationship and everything appears rosy. You start wondering whether your Mr. Right has arrived. The moment you tell them about your status, they start looking for every avenue to stay far away from you.

“The ones that won’t avoid you are probably seeking an avenue to take advantage of you sexually. This I know from experience.”

The woman noted that after repeated rejection from potential suitors, she often toy with the idea of not telling the men about her status.

Actors, entertainers fueling stigmatization

While admitting that she feels hurt whenever a promising relationship turns sour, Khadijat wondered whether most of these men would rather that ladies living with HIV didn’t tell them about their statuses and pretend that all is well.

“Stigmatisation is still a very big problem in society today. The truth is that only those (PLWHA) who wear the shoe know where it pinches.

“Do you know that none of my immediate family members or my colleagues is aware of my HIV status because of this same stigma? I kept it to myself because I have seen how they have reacted to other persons perceived or diagnosed to have the virus. This is why I am convinced it is my personal cross.

“I am also disappointed that the so-called educated people, who should know better, are actually the ones fueling stigmatisation in this country. I feel with the level of their education, exposure and experience, they should understand our challenge and not join in the hate campaign,”

she said.

READ ALSO: 60-Year-Old Mum-Of-5 Who Hid Her HIV Status From Her Three Sons Tells Why… And It’s So Disheartening!

The graduate of History and International Relations stressed that while people with poor understanding of HIV/AIDS can be pardoned, the sins of these educated elites cannot be overlooked.

She also took a swipe at Nollywood actors and comedians in the entertainment industry, saying they are equally fueling misinformation on screen.

“I can categorically say that all the various Nollywood video I have watched have not depicted us well. It leaves much to be desired. I people in entertainment need to get more enlightened before projecting their bias to viewers,”

she said.

A nine-year-old HIV journey

Reminiscing on how she discovered that she was infected, the lady stated that her HIV journey started about nine years ago. She narrated:

“My HIV journey has not been a palatable or encouraging one at all. When I discovered my HIV status in February 2011, it wasn’t funny. I had the test at the insistence of my fiancé whom I was due to get married to before the end of the year.

“I felt it was unnecessary, partly because I have seen the results of a couple of HIV tests he allegedly had in the past which turned out to be negative.

”He was the only sex partner I had ever known back then. After a while, I started nursing the fear that he could walk out of the relationship if I failed to do what he wanted.”

She said that in order to please her then-fiancé, she went to Randle General Hospital where, after the routine taking of blood sample, the result returned positive.

“I screamed. When I finally calmed down, I asked one of the nurses where else in Lagos Mainland could one take the HIV test. Deep down in my mind, I was livid and wanted to be double sure the result wasn’t fake. I was told it would be conducted free at any general hospital of my choice. She also reminded me that I might be compelled to pay if I opt to run the test in a private facility.

“Since I stay in Surulere, I decided to visit Harvey Road General Hospital the next day. Against expectation, the new result also came out positive. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I sat there crying and wondering whether the result meant the end of my life. It was as if the ground would collapse on me,” she said.

Khadijat, who explained that she was counseled by concerned health officials on duty, added that she was further advised to join an HIV/AIDS support group to avoid developing suicide ideation.

She also said that a folder was opened at the facility in her name before she was convinced enough to return home.

“When I broke the news to my then fiancé, he expressed surprise. Something told me he knew about how I was infected. Needless to say, the relationship ended a couple of weeks later. It was obvious things would never remain the same.

“Looking back now, I think I started with diet control. I wasn’t given any drug but the medical officials requested for a CD4 count test, which read 460 at that time. My doctor always encouraged me to take lots of vegetables and fruits to further boost my CD4 count. He warned that if I could be placed on ARV if I allow my CD4 to spiral below the current one,”

she said.

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READ ALSO: Brave Woman, Doreen Moraa Moracha Opens Up On Living With HIV, Survival | Shares Some Advice With HIV+ Parents

CD4 counts, otherwise known as cluster of differentiation 4, are white blood cells that fight infection.

According to Healthline, an online publication, a healthy immune system normally has a CD4 count ranging from 500 to 1,600 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (cells/mm3).

When a CD4 count is lower than 200 cell/mm3, a person will receive a diagnosis of AIDS.

Access to ARVs and FG shortcomings

According to the civil servant, she dreaded the idea of being placed on antiretrovirals knowing that it was a treatment regime she would spend the rest of her life taking.

“So I stuck to the fruits regime. After a while, I was introduced to Septrin before the eventual introduction of ARV. Any time I honour my clinic appointment, my mood drops. I am always unhappy. I keep saying ‘Why me? As I mentioned earlier, even my immediate family members are not aware of what I am passing through. I have only a couple of confidants I share my worries with. I thank God for everything though.

“I must also commend the federal government for allowing PLWHA easy access to ARVs. These drugs are given to us freely at general hospitals. Even the CD4 count and viral load tests are without charges. The only thing I can say we pay for, probably, is renewal of appointment cards,”

she stated.

While calling on Nigerians to respect and not stigmatize PLWHA, she said that all people living with HIV/AIDS need is love, care, support, and acceptability.

She also appealed to the federal government to fund and equip the country’s research institutes, stressing that it would further put the minds of PLWHA at rest that policymakers are doing something about the issue.

“In my opinion, Nigeria is not managing the HIV/AIDS situation well at all. I feel they are trading our health with money because they are neither making local research nor working on alternative means to rid the country of the virus. In as much as we understand there is no cure, the government should have properly funded and equip our available medical research centres.

ALSO SEE: Married and Living With HIV/AIDS: Nigerian Women Share Their Sad Stories

“If they have done that, perhaps we could have been closer to finding a cure instead of the continual reliance on ARV as a cushion for PLWHA. After all, malaria too had no cure in the past. Now, we have different kind of drugs that could cure malaria. That’s why I think HIV / AIDS should not be an exception. We cannot continue to rely on European and Asian researchers alone for a scientific breakthrough,”

she said.


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