A few days to my sister’s wedding, I met her pretty friend that she has always told me about.
They met in a church program, and since then, they had always checked up on each other like they had been friends since childhood.
I didn’t understand the sudden bond, nor understand why my sister loved and felt responsible for her. I also knew she was married, but recently divorced; I just didn’t know she left for a much deeper reason than the usual ‘Marriage Palava’.
She has two children, two cute boys – 6yrs old and 4yrs old.
They both looked exactly like her.
One day while I was in the salon with my sister, she mentioned to me that she would want me to have some sort of relationship with her friend and help check up on her more frequently (since she will be relocating with her husband after the wedding).
Then, I asked her why she feels so responsible for her, and what the attraction is exactly.
(I wish I never asked).
She told me her friend was HIV positive, but that’s not the story; her last child is HIV positive as well.
So here is the short version of the story:
She didn’t know she was HIV positive until she was pregnant and the anger that her husband who knew his status but didn’t care to tell her or prevent her from having it, made her hide it so much she didn’t realize that decision was going to affect her unborn child.
She didn’t know how to face life, and eventually when she had her baby, he was positive and although she knew it wasn’t a death sentence, she couldn’t help but resent her man for putting her through this, and more unhappy with herself for letting her shock ignore her baby’s health.
She said every time she wants to make her last child use his HIV medicines, he keeps asking why he is always taking the drugs while his older brother doesn’t.
And although she tries to convince him that they are multivitamins and it’s for younger boys, she knows he is beginning to not believe that lie again.
She worries about how she will explain to him when he grows older that she carelessly infected him with HIV.
She also didn’t know if she made the right choice of having him, because she found out when she could have still aborted him.
Every time she is weak, she worries about her son.
She didn’t tell them in his school that he is HIV positive, in fact, she hasn’t told anyone except my sister.
She is scared her son will not be allowed to live a normal life, she is scared even the older brother who is negative will not be able to live a normal life. However, she also doesn’t know if that’s another mistake she is making.
What if her hiding it gets another child, or the teacher or even her older brother infected with the disease.
She is depressed. She is confused. She is angry. She is frustrated.
How can her happy, bubbly life take a bad turn at 25 years?
How can she all of a sudden live in perpetual sadness?
What would she have done differently, what should she have never done in the first place?
Firstly, she said she wouldn’t have married a man who she knew couldn’t be faithful to her. And even if she only found out after marriage about his cheating nature, she should have taken more drastic measures to stay safe.
Secondly, she said she would have gotten herself together faster and made a decision either she wants to have her child or not. And if she wanted to, since she found out early, she would have done the following things to make sure she protected her baby.
- She would have gone on a regimen of three antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) as soon as possible and stay on these drugs until her infant is born and breastfeeding has concluded.
- The baby should have taken ‘nevirapine’ drug daily for six weeks.
- She would have formula-fed him rather than breastfed him to reduce or prevent the risk.
Lastly, she regrets that she isn’t bold enough to overcome the stigma for her kids while they are young and wouldn’t really tell what is going on.
Now, she isn’t even sure how to live. Maybe one day she will figure it out; but while she figures it out, we will be here to help her live her best life, also when we figure out how to make that happen.
Life is a gift, and although our mistakes don’t define us, some mistakes truly redefine us. We just have to understand how to live that redefined life.
Olayinka Adelekan blogs at www.queenyinka.com