My name is Nana. I have no friends and no family. Are you surprised? My family and friends have all abandoned me. No one wants to associate with me. I feel so lonely and I am really lost in this world. I revealed my greatest secret to them but they fled instantly. I needed someone to dab my tears but they made me shed more tears. They have all deserted me and I am left all alone.
It all started when I was 22. I was a student at the University of Nsukka, Nigeria. I was studying Chemical Engineering. I was really intelligent and all my grades were outstanding.
One fateful day, I visited the salon. It was a popular hair salon situated around the University. I just wanted to fix some weavon on my hair. While fixing the weavon, I felt a sharp pierce directly on my skull. It was a mistake and the hairstylist immediately apologized. I counted it as nothing and I allowed her to complete the hair.
A month later, I fell so ill. It all began with a fever. My body was as hot as the sun. I also felt really weak and I had a sore throat. I figured out it could be malaria and so I went to get some antimalarial tablets. I took it but I didn’t notice any change. I waited for a while before going to the hospital but my condition grew worse. So, I had to visit the hospital.
I was so disheartened when I heard the news. When I visited the hospital, I was asked to run some tests. When the results of the tests came out, it turned out that one of them was positive. I tested positive to the deadly virus. I was HIV positive. I cried my eyes out when I heard the news.
I was still a virgin at 22 so how could I have gotten the virus? Well, after some series of lectures by the doctor, I realized that I had gotten it from the hair salon. The needle was unsterilized and it had pierced through my skull. I never knew HIV could truly be transmitted via that way. I thought HIV was just for prostitutes and men who were womanizers.
The first person I broke the news to was my roommate. She felt so sorry for me. But, few days after, I noticed she started avoiding me. She no longer slept in the room. She stopped eating my food and soon, she moved out of the room. In less than a month, the news about my HIV status had spread round my department. I wondered how it did but bad news truly spreads like wildfire.
I travelled home for the second-semester break and I revealed the news to my parents and siblings. They all felt sorry for me. I was taken to the hospital for further consultation and I was given some drugs. The drugs were free, paid for by the Government and Non-governmental organizations. I had to live on drugs all my life. The doctor had assured me that there was hope if I kept on taking my drugs.
I noticed something unusual. My siblings started withdrawing from me. Typically, we were always together in the room talking and laughing. But, everything changed. I was always left alone. I was stigmatized right in my home.
When I got back to school after the break, life became unbearable for me. I was avoided by almost everyone. Some people had said I was an harlot. Some had said some ridiculous things about me but they didn’t know the truth. I was really stigmatized in school too.
Luckily for me, I was able to scale through the University. I did my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and I got a nice job after my service. I never told anyone about my HIV status because of the stigma. I chose to keep it a secret.
Here I am in my room lost in thoughts. Paul, who I had known for about a year had proposed to me. He wants to marry me but he doesn’t know I’m positive to the deadly virus. Doctors say I can have a baby without transmitting the virus. But, what about the stigma? If I tell Paul, he might probably break up with me. If he doesn’t break up with me, his family might finally get to know and the stigma would be reignited. I’m so broken and I need help. What do I do?
“HIV is a virus but Stigma is the deadly disease.”
Written By Isibor Precious, Delta State University, Abraka, NIGERIA.