The Long Road Back, Josephine’s Story

My name is Josephine. I am a 29 year old Kenyan lady. I am 5’6” tall and dark in complexion. I was born in Siaya District, Nyanza Province, Kenya.

I was brought up in a family of ten. I am the second born. My parents died when I was just 14 years old. After their death, my uncle became my guardian. After I finished secondary school, I married Edwin. He was a builder. We were blessed with two sons, Brian and Anthony. Sadly, Anthony passed away.  Brian is now nine years old and in class three.

My family and I lived in Nairobi. My husband died in 2001. He was sick on and off and admitted to the hospital several times before his death.  We were together three years.

As a young widow, my life turned upside down. My in-laws abandoned and resented me. I had no place to turn. Following Edwin’s burial and without my permission, my father-in-law claimed his son’s benefits. I received nothing. Later on my father-in-law confiscated all of our property and belongings. Only the bedding remained. This is because according to Luo custom, our tribe, it is taboo to take the bed of a married person. I was thrown out of the house. Life became unbearable for me. I tried to make ends meet. I  worked as househelp. The earnings sustained life and I was able to enroll Brian in preschool.

In December 2003, I fell ill and I was admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital for an entire month.  Although discharged, I was still very weak and my health was deteriorating everyday. The church committee met and advised me to return to my matrimonial home place in Siaya. They paid the fare and both Brian and I set off. I was feeling troubled, I knew there would be no peace and that I would face rejection. I had no where else to go.

We arrived in Siaya in early 2004. By August 2004, I was sick again. I didn’t know the cause. In October I was admitted to the Suba District Hospital.  My son was my sole source of comfort and companionship throughout my month long hospitalization.

While at the hospital, I went for Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). I found out I was HIV positive. Despite the hatred, discrimination, and resentment all around me, I did not worry – I just continued to struggle on through daily life. Once I was discharged, I went home and found out that my son was being mistreated by my in-laws. My aim was to see my son prosper. I knew I could only do this if I continued to live.

I enrolled in the HIV care program at the Suba District Hospital. About six months later when my health began to get worse, I was started on antiretrovirals (ARVs). The medicine brought severe side effects and I was once again admitted to the hospital. People I didn’t know, especially the doctors and nurses, encouraged me to keep going, stay focused, and to never lose hope or give up.  I improved.

I was now part of a Community Based Organization (CBO) called, St. Monica Widows. I was learning Horticultural Farming along the Lake Victoria shore. However, in August 2005, I began to suffer from oesphageal candidiasis. I was referred to Nairobi for treatment and returned feeling energetic and well. I went back to my CBO.

One day the CBO chairlady urged me to attend an Antiretroviral Adherence Counseling Training.  After the training I was motivated to know more about HIV/AIDS and volunteered as a peer educator. FACES then employed me as a Community and Clinic Health Assistant in May 2007. I enjoy working with everyone and I am happy to live positively and fortunately Brian is negative. I dream of one day purchasing land to provide my son with a place to truly call home and see him through school. May the almighty God shower us with his blessings.

July 2007

Note: All names have been changed.

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