The following story was narrated to TWSC Contributor Kim Mukwa. The narrator asked us to refer to her as Samantha.
My name is Samantha*. I am aged 36. I am from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I am a mom of two girls.
My journey started when I was 17 or 18, not really sure, but I got tested [for HIV] in 2000.
It is not clear how I contracted the sickness because my boyfriend at the time [was] negative. But looking back, I think I might have gotten it from a razor cut [from a blade] that was used to cut my mom’s sister who was already bedridden with AIDS.
I had gone to test for my heart and the doctor wanted to check everything. I was very confused cause I was very young. I thought I was going to die when she told me. I called my sister immediately and broke the news to her because she was my guardian.
When I found out, I was shocked because I could not pinpoint exactly where I got it.
The diagnosis really impacted me that time, but because I got support and went for counselling, I accepted it.
It sank in as I started going for private counselling every week. Yes, I still deal with stigma because then my sister started narrating my ordeal to people.
The diagnosis did not change my daily life as I was not sick, but I had to be cautious and I had to take a lot of immune boosters, something I was not used to.
The sickness cannot kill me because it has already failed. If I die, it also dies, so we need to look after each other very well.
[In] 2010, I started taking medication. To date, I have been strong. Of course, I have ups and downs but not critical. Every time I get sick, I remind it if I go down, you go down with me.
Eating healthy and taking my medication helps me keep fit. [I have] faith in God that one day there will be a cure.
My encouragement to someone is don’t give up on life because of HIV. Take your medicine. You can still do what other people do; just be cautious and listen to your physician’s advice.
It’s not the end of the world. You might die of an accident and not HIV-related illnesses, yet you have it. So live your life; there is hope. Talk to the virus. Tell it for it to live it needs you, so it must behave itself.
Don’t give up and never let anyone make you feel like you are a bad person. They don’t know your story. Test early and start treatment at the right time.
I want to share my story because a lot of people are in denial and families should stop discrimination and offer support. The earlier you know, the better. I think those counselling sessions made me feel strong and I was not different. I just had to live my life with caution.
Look after yourself. Protect others. Seek information about the disease as much as you can. Eat healthy. And you don’t have to feel alone. Thank God you know and there is hope. You can still have kids [and] get married. It’s really not a train[wreck]. I mean it’s 20 years now, and I am still strong.