By Gbenga Osinaike
A young university graduate who was born with the HIV virus (names withheld) has described how her mother broke the news of her HIV status to her when she was 11.
She made the revelation recently in an interview with our reporter at the Genesis Cinema, Maryland Lagos during the debut of a documentary on HIV/AIDS by Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA) and the Network of people living with HIV in Nigeria.
The documentary film titled, “nothing without us: The women who will end AIDS”
The documentary was shot in Nigeria, Burundi and the United States. It tells the story of how women living with HIV turned a devastating diagnosis into a fight for survival, access to life saving medications and a movement to end a global epidemic.
Nigeria’s Rolake Odetoyinbo who was among the first set of Nigerians to publicly declare her HIV status was prominently featured in the documentary. She was also present at the presentation of the documentary inspiring hope that the battle against HIV/AIDS is being won.
The lady born with HIV who declined that her name be mentioned because her mother was not aware of the interview said, “My father and mother are carriers of the virus and they are still alive. People now live with the virus as long as they take their medications. In my case the virus has been fully subdued. I can’t transmit it to anybody because I have consistently been taking my drugs. I take drugs twice a day.”
Reflecting on the day her mother broke the news she said, “Like I said I was 11 when my mother broke the news to me. It was a particularly sad day in my life. But I do not blame my parents. It’s not their fault. It is nobody’s fault. I believe there is a purpose for God allowing what has happened to me to happen.”
Now 21 and a graduate of Biochemistry, she said life as a HIV carrier has been challenging noting however that she has learnt to live with the virus. “I had a relationship that did not work out because I disclosed my status to my partner. But that would not stop me from disclosing my status to whoever wants to marry me. I believe one day I will carry my baby and if I am not married I would be glad to adopt babies from motherless homes. I love to have babies that I can care for.”
One of the most trying times of her life according to her was when her boss where she did her industrial attachment stopped her from taking people’s blood for test in the laboratory because he said she could infect people with HIV. “What made it painful for me is that this boss of mine is an educated person and he knows by taking people’s blood for test it is not possible to transmit the virus. That made me feel really bad. But I take solace in the fact that nobody can dictate my joy. I have forgiven him ever since and I have moved on.”
She noted that many are still ignorant of the fact that HIV virus in a person is not a death sentence. “Many who take their drugs regularly now live happy and healthy lives. In my case the viral load is undetectable. It is not transmittable. If people know their status they will be on drug over time the viral load will be undetected. They can have relationship with people without infecting others. As I take the drugs the virus is locked up. We are hoping for the cure.”
She said taking the drug everyday could be tiring adding however that it is the only option left. “We trust that one day the cure will be fund and it will be like malaria is being cured today. In my case I believe that whatever it is God has for me I know I will get there. I am not a churchy person. I talk to God. I know that I talk to God in my quiet time. I have a father-daughter relationship with God. HIV is just a virus and not something that will kill you except you want it to kill you.”