As a young African woman living with HIV and depending on anti retroviral therapy for a healthy life, the future often seems bleak. The horizon seems to shrink even more when I remember the fact that I was born with this ‘stigma’ as it is often regarded as in my native homeland.
Often, my mind wanders helplessly to unanswerable questions such as Why me? Why was I born with this? Does God even love me? If he does why did he let me to be conceived by that particular couple or better still why didn’t he make me come out free of the virus? Will I ever have a meaningful life and achieve my dreams?
Thankfully however, I am often startled by the seemingly selfish nature of my questions as sometimes it is as though I wished someone else had ‘my virus’. My parents died from AIDS when I was 6 years old and even though I wonder why that happened to me, I am very grateful for my grandparents who raised me in a comfortable home and provided me with a good education. With a wrong dealing by fate, my situation would have been much worse…I could have died when I was much younger or I could have become a sickly orphan begging on the streets.
Over time, I have realised that living with HIV does not mean that I am HIV or that HIV is me, I am not HIV. It just means that it is a virus that is in my body and with competent medication it can be suppressed to undetectable levels. HIV is not a quality that defines me as an individual; it does not stop my ability to dream of a better future. It does not rob me of my funny, loving, driven and kind personality and it should not have the power to control my destiny or decide my fate.
I have HIV, so what? It does not make me different in any way, shape or form; I am equally capable and important as anyone else out there. Attitude really does determine your altitude in every facet of your life. If you approach life with the assumption that having HIV defines you, then you will always see yourself in an inferior light. With confidence and the right attitude we can all have a voice and shine the light on the path for the younger generation of HIV positive individuals- to let them know that they should and must not play second fiddle to people who do not have the virus. By doing this, we make a difference within ourselves and strengthen our self esteem. We must all embrace and cultivate our unique character traits because those are what define us as HIV is something we have but we are not HIV.