A popularly used adage has it that ”to err is human and to forgive divine ” yes we are all human beings and don’t lead perfect lives,that’s why words like ‘mistake and forgiveness ‘ exist in my vocabulary , my choice for using 1 st person narrative is that i don’t want to say ‘our’ mainly because i hate imposing maybe it doesn’t exist in your vocabulary so please forgive me for being subjective .
once again ,don’t let me confuse you ,i am trying to bring you to my kind of society where people don’t forgive easily ,stereotype and show no feelings of remorse .
as i was committing ink to paper ,i tried really hard to fight back my tears which were obviously betraying me .
growing up , i used to hear many stories about people dying of HIV and AIDS ,how people would discriminate you if they find out you are infected .
all these were enough to make me shiver as a child ,i still remember my grandmother who like other women of her age in my society who didn’t go school would move around heralding misguided information about people infected by HIV and AIDS .They would say all sorts of things that were discriminatory and because i was still a kid ,it didn’t matter to me and after all i had not come across anyone who opened up about their HIV status .
few years later , my aunt got pregnant this time around with another man after having bone three boys with completely different fathers . she did not register her pregnancy at any clinic or hospital till the day she gave birth, that was a shocker .
what could have been the cause of her doing that ? i questioned myself ,but couldn’t get an answer .
nevertheless , she gave birth to a baby boy , his name was Pride .i liked him so much ,he was cute and handsome and i could tell by the way he would smile at me whenever i hold him that he liked me too.
as days unfolds to weeks and months , baby Pride died after suffering a long week of cough and experiencing high body temperature ,we were all hurt , i cried that day and refused to eat , i felt that something was not right ,its like a heavy cloud has hung over my family .everybody was really disturbed .
aunt Elizabeth had not taken Pride to clinic for check up after giving birth to him ,now that he was dead ,she too was sick ,but refused to seek medication ,i still remember granny one day shouting on top of her voice saying ” you are now a moving skeleton ,but you still refuse to go to hospital ! she was speaking in utter rage .
but why was aunt Elizabeth refusing to go to the clinic , that question kept on crawling in my head .she was only receiving holy waters from a prophet of some sort who lived close by our house .
just like what other learned people say ” a stitch in time saves nine ” , aunt Elizabeth didn’t realize that and the more she refused to visit the clinic the more things were getting worse. she was now very thin and tall ,oh it was really pathetic to look at her and agree that she used to be an attractive woman, she could hardly fit in her clothes .
i was the one who was sharing a bed with her ,when she was sick . one day during midnight ,my grandma woke up to check and inquire if aunt Elizabeth needed anything as she used to do all the days ,but when grandma opened the door i was fast asleep , she called ‘eliza ! eliza ! she didn’t respond .
grandma then shook me vigorously because i was in a deep sleep , i jumped .she said i should go and wait in the sitting room ,suddenly i heard a hysterical cry from the room where aunt eliza was , i didn’t cry that time neither did i speak ,it was too hard for me to believe that aunt Elizabeth has breathed her last.
the following morning her body was taken to the mortuary and all relatives and neighbors gathered to bid her farewell ,it was at that moment that my conscious told me everything was really happening.
it’s been six years now since aunt Elizabeth has died and one day i was going through a huge pile of papers in my grandma’s room ,guess what i found , a letter which was addressed to a man who i suppose was the father of Pride .
it stated that ,she has been tested and found HIV positive ,but was too scared to tell grandma or anyone else in the family and worst of all ,she said she was never going to get medication ,she feared being seen by members of the society ,she also feared being discriminated .
i was really disturbed by this ,why did my aunt chose death over life all in the name of fear ,fear of being discriminated,she could have stood for herself and denounce discrimination and stigma .
now we in 2015 and a lot of interventions of AIDS response are there , in the very same society ,people are taking their medication ,but one problem is still rife ,discrimination.
people are really scared to come clean and say hey i am HIV positive and i have been living positively for so and so years ,its still a challenge .
just recently i heard a young boy say i would rather die unmarried than propose love to a girl who would coerce me to get tested before marriage . now this is a challenge and needs to be addressed .that’s why there are still issues of willful infection/transmission because there a lot of people who don’t want their HIV statuses known ,but want to have sexual partners .
as a young women who wish to get married one day , i think that ending HIV and AIDS is a possibility only if we go to our communities ,socialize members ,engage them collectively and listen to diverse views for they vary according to culture .
SDGs were endorsed this September and ending AIDS is part of the goals ,but if a ”one size fits all approach ” is used ,i am scared this may not help reach to people we are trying to drag so they can come on board .
after all a nation should learn from its mistakes .engagement is really the answer .