Josephine Achieng Odhiambo was eavesdropping on a conversation between her mother and her doctor when she discovered she had HIV.
“I discovered I was HIV positive by mistake. I was seven years old when my mother took me to see a doctor due to a rash I had. When the results came back, the doctor asked me to leave the room. However, I did not close the door behind and I overheard him confirming to my mum that I had the virus.”
She was given Septrin and multi-vitamins but her condition was not immediately revealed to her. She did not confront her parents then but it was clear that she had been born HIV positive.
Today, at 19 years old, the brave and confident young woman has just started laying the foundation for her future.
She is a youth advocate at the Centre for the Study of Adolescence (CSA Kenya).
In January, she will be joining the Nairobi Technical University to pursue a course in community development and social work.
The first born in a family of three became reserved years following the discovery.
When she turned 12, she joined a children counselling club where her condition was finally revealed to her in the presence of her mother.
NO EXPLANATION OFFERED
“My mother didn’t offer any explanation even then and I didn’t ask. I become more reserved as I entered puberty. I cried every night in bed. My mother maybe thought my mood swings and rebelliousness was out of the adolescent onset.”
Her parents are a discordant couple. Her mother is HIV positive while her father is negative. Josephine’s siblings are also negative.
“Sometimes, I questioned why it had to happen to me. I resented my parents for not taking necessary precautions with me. But in 2016, I forgave them. This was after a lot of counselling and exposure to sex and HIV education,” she says.
Josephine wants to eventually pursue psychology.
“I want to be in a position to talk and listen to others going through hard times.”
At the CSA Kenya , Josephine volunteers as a youth advocate where she is charged with talking to teenagers going through challenges as well as developing policies.
“I like to keep myself busy at all times so I don’t have to remember that I am sick.”
Josephine is hoping for advanced treatment methods to fight the disease.
“Maybe one day we will only be required to have an injection per year instead of swallowing the ARV’s daily, or maybe we’ll find the cure...a girl can dream, right?” she laughs.
Sometimes, she would toy around with the idea of visiting herbalists and pastors with the hope of a quick fix, but her mother always discouraged her.
AN ENCOURAGING MOTHER
“My mum always tells me that even God does not help those who do not help themselves. She encourages me to take my medicine religiously and I will be fine.”
In future, Josephine hopes that she will settle in her desired field of psychology before she settles down to raise a family. She is however not very keen on dating after her previous boyfriend abandoned her upon learning of her status.
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