You know, sometimes information hits you, and you wonder if it were a wake-up call or a course to go deeper into the rabbit hole. Being jovial and sanguine, I am a friend to many but can hardly confide in any. They are suitable for the gist, the trill, and the vibe but not the real thing.
How I found out I had HIV
When I was 23, walking past a screening point, I saw a friend who called out to me. While we talked, he encouraged me to do my test. I wondered what test he was talking about; he then mentioned it was the HIV test. This was more of a routine as I had been involved in several seminars and had more than enough information on the subject hence, I obliged. When the test was done, moments later, I was told I had a reactive test and needed to go to the hospital for confirmation. My life flashed before my eyes, and it rang in my head that it was just one mistake. I went home, hoping this feeling would disappear but it never did.
The next day, I did not show up at the hospital as I was still trying to digest the information. Three days after my diagnosis, I went out for sports, and after some time, I felt really tired and then I was gripped by fear; “is it possible it’s the HIV that’s making me this weak?” with this voice in my head, I took the courage to go to the hospital for confirmation. At the hospital, the test was done and it was confirmed that I was HIV positive. At that point, I was prepared to take the medication. This is where and when the story begins.
Why I don’t talk to people about my status
Now I can’t bring myself to talk to people about my status because people cannot be trusted, and by the way, I found all the support I needed in me. What is the point of telling someone of my status when they will end up sharing it over a bottle of beer or, worst, meaningless gossip? Most of the time, people have difficulty accepting and sticking to these medications because it’s a long-term affair, but for me, I find solace and the courage to keep going because I am still young and still have my whole life in front of me. When I think of stopping, I think of what I am yet to accomplish. When I see young people killing themselves every day, I wonder if they know there are people with bigger issues who still find the courage to go on.
My thoughts about STIGMA vs showing support
Despite all these struggles, some sentence us to death daily, although being HIV positive is not. They can push you into a state of depression you get lost in the deep. What does it cost to show love? If I were sure I will be treated with love, then telling my loved ones would have been a piece of cake, but how do I do that when their eyes of judgment are already looking at me so deeply and fingers so swift to point while tongues are sharp to say I knew it. I have accepted my truth and can’t let one mistake bring me down. There are days I cry, but after the crying comes the courage to keep taking my medication, eating well, and resting. This has kept me as I have maintained a viral load of targets not detected through the years. I am confident I can make it to whatever level I want and even make a wonderful family.
One thing we must keep in mind is; frustrated people tend to frustrate others; unhappy people make others unhappy. We need to stop projecting our problems to others to have a healthier world.
J is a young Cameroonian peer educator and clinical mentor for young people living with HIV. Despite his active involvement in the fight against HIV, he prefers to keep his status secret for fear of judgement. J agreed to share his story with us anonymously in the hope that it makes a difference.
About the YoungVoices: Aloud n’ Allowed campaign
BodyTalk_Let’s TalkBody is one of four creators across Africa that joined The Access Challenge through the One By One 2030 to fight HIV stigma and promote SRHR knowledge in digital spaces in a fun and creative way starting 20th June 2022.
We aim to reduce the stigma around HIV and reproductive health by amplifying the voices of young Africans through digital spaces. J’s story is the first in a series of five stories young people we shall publish to show how stigma manifests.
Want to join the campaign? Download the digital toolkit to get started below and find us on social media.