For the last three years I have been sick. Every so often I go to the hospital with one ailment or other. In June 2007 I went to Ongo dispensary for treatment as usual – or so I thought.
The doctor who saw me ordered for typhoid, malaria and stool tests. Then he asked me how I felt about getting tested for HIV, seeing as I had been going to hospital nearly every month for various illnesses. In addition, I had just completed a course of TB drugs barely three months earlier.
I was very apprehensive. I thought long and hard about getting the HIV test. My wife had just given birth just one week ago and I recalled that she too had been asked about testing for HIV, a test she declined, certain that she was OK. Now I was in the same dilemma she faced months earlier.
After a lengthy chat with the doctor I was convinced that the proof of the pudding was in the eating- I would only be sure of my HIV status if I did the test. He sent me to the laboratory for the test. After ten seemingly long minutes the lab results were out and I was called back to the doctor’s office. He told me that I was HIV positive and explained that I was carrying the virus.
I became sicker than I was in the morning. I instantly felt an inexplicable pain in every part of my body-from head to toe. I was sure this was the end of my life. What would happen to my family? My newborn child? How was I ever going to tell my wife? I did not even want to imagine how crushed she would be.
After a few moments the clinician counseled me further on how to disclose to my wife and how to live positively with the infection. He gave me some medicines after going through the motions of registering me as a patient.
One day passed – I could not bring myself to tell my wife my HIV status. A second day went by in similar fashion. On the third day, I finally mustered enough courage to tell her. She was shocked. A few moments later she recalled that she had been asked when she was pregnant to test for HIV so as to protect the child in the event that she was positive. She had been worried about our family and of my reaction if she was diagnosed positive- as such she declined.
She agreed this time round to go for testing and we went back to the dispensary together. She was counseled and tested in the MCH and found to be positive. Both of us were registered at the MCH*. We were given more drugs and blood samples taken for further investigation in Migori at the district hospital. We were given another appointment date to bring our newborn to the postnatal clinic.
My life is back to normal, my health is much better and I no longer have frequent opportunistic infections. We are trying to protect our baby from infection even as we await his HIV PCR** test results. Our older child is seven years old and HIV negative.
The problem we are currently facing is generating enough income to sustain our life. We are peasant farmers and we depend on seasonal rains. We are only praying to God for more energy and strength and with the good use of drugs we are sure that our lives will be better. May God help the program that has brought us this care here as many people used to travel over 20 kilometers to the hospitals where they could get HIV treatment.
As my husband said, it was very difficult for me to agree to be tested for HIV. I was first offered the HIV test when I was pregnant -and I could not imagine that I was HIV positive. Worse still I was petrified at the thought of being HIV positive- what would happen to my marriage if it was so?
I thank my husband for his courage in taking the test and for having the strength and openness to share the information with me. His actions caused both of us to be aware of our status and enabled us to enter into a treatment program.
We are now trying by all means to protect ourselves and our two children. Life is back to as normal as can be and we are now doing best to provide for our family-it is not always easy to put food on the table. Nevertheless, we are hopeful and determined to succeed in life by all means.
*MCH- Maternal and Child Health Clinic- traditionally for pregnant or postnatal women and children under 5 years.
**PCR- Polymerase Chain Reaction- test for HIV virus used widely to ascertain HIV status of children <18months old born to HIV positive mothers