MY STORY: A positive life after HIV diagnosis - Daily Nation

A positive life after HIV diagnosis

Saturday August 18 2018

Lucy Wanjiku 26, Team leader Positive Young women voices. PHOTO| DENNIS ONSONGO.

Lucy Wanjiku 26, Team leader Positive Young women voices. PHOTO| DENNIS ONSONGO. 

"My first subconscious response was disbelief and I don't remember hearing anything else the doctor said.

It was a dizzying moment with many thoughts and questions reeling in my mind at the same time. I thought of my six-month-old son who had a recurring cough and wondered if I had passed the virus to him.

That thought itself made my world crumble,” she says.

Barely a month after knowing her HIV status, she lost her baby to pneumonia. Yet, questions kept seeking audience with her: Could the baby have died of Aids related complications? Could she have saved him had she taken a test earlier? Something else bothered her. “When I disclosed my HIV status to my then husband, he was composed and didn’t show a tinge of surprise.”

Growing up, this is not the life she had envisioned for herself. “While in secondary school, I desired to be a Catholic nun and I made friends with a young man who also wanted to join the clergy. That was the basis of our friendship but after a few months of knowing each other, we got into a romantic relationship. In December 2010, I discovered that I was one month pregnant. Then, I was 19 years old and had just cleared Form Four. He was just a year older. We were both naive and obviously not ready for many things in life – at least not marriage,” Lucy says.

However, her parents would hear none of it, citing the need to have the baby bred in a complete family. Furthermore, the guy had owned up, faced them and was ready to move in with her.

SINGLE ROOM

“We rented a single room in Dandora Phase Four and survived on what he got from menial jobs which were also hard to come by. On several occasions, we didn't have something to put on the table and I remember having to walk home which was about five kilometres away for just a plate of food. The pregnancy itself wasn’t easy, as I had been diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), a condition that would leave me anaemic and dehydrated. He couldn’t understand and he thought that I was playing ill to avoid looking for a job,” she says.

When the situation got worse, Lucy went back home then to her friend's place because her father kept insisting on her to go back to her husband.

“A few months after losing the baby, I got back with him. I thought that the pain we both shared of losing him would bring us closer. Besides, I had already got myself a marketing job so we wouldn’t have to argue about money. I was wrong. Issues of insecurities arose and beating followed. The final straw was coming home and finding him in bed with someone else,” she says.

“That was like a wake-up call for me. I thought of the dreams I had shelved, the people who had looked up to me, and it felt like I was being given another chance to start all over again. After eight months of living together, I called it quits and this time, for good,” she says.

After moving out, she enrolled for facilitation skills training with Hope Worldwide Kenya (HWWK), a faith-based organisation and would get invited to mentor students in different schools on sexual reproductive health. She acknowledges that the sessions were therapeutic and gradually, she built her self-esteem.

"Towards the end of 2012, I participated in a beauty pageant held in town and got connected to a mentor who helped me back to my feet. I also got a job with National Organisation of Peer Educators (NOPE), as a trainer of sexual and productive health rights (SRHR),” she offers.

At 27, Lucy is in a happy place. She is a mother to a doting daughter and wife to a HIV negative man whom she regards as one of her biggest support systems.

“When he started making passes at me, I didn't expect that he would check me out again after learning that I was living with HIV. Yet, he did and he has never looked back. We have been married for the last four years,” she explains with a wide smile.

Last year, she founded Positive Young Women Voices, a community-based organisation in Nairobi that seeks to empower girls and young women. The organisation provides menstrual management education integrated with HIV prevention and how to live with the virus. It also offers a safe haven for sexual and gender-based violence victims.

“I envision a world free of AIDS and this is the message I take with me in every conference I attend or on any board that I am a member of. I was recently at the AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam speaking on the importance of girls and women in the HIV response. In the past I have been a delegate in conferences held in countries such as Belgium, USA, Switzerland, South Africa and Namibia,” she says.

Presently, she is a member of Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA), member Kenya Coordinating Mechanism (KCM) to the Global Funds and a member of End AIDS Coalition (EAC).

“No matter what you have gone through or are currently experiencing, tomorrow is a better day that awaits. Let not your situation define you,” she says.