Island News

An insight to the life of an AIDS victim

Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. Having five children sounds like a hassle for some people, but for Rebecca, its this fact that has kept her sane and focused on
06 Sep 2008 12:00

Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. Having five children sounds like a hassle for some people, but for Rebecca, its this fact that has kept her sane and focused on the future.
Rebbecca is no ordinary mother either, she lives with HIV/AIDS, has recently separated from her partner of 10 years and has had to deal with the frightening possibility of her two youngest children being HIV positive.
But surprisingly, Rebecca’s optimistic approach to her situation tells me that this Ovalau native isn’t about to start playing the victim.
“I contracted the disease from my partner of ten years – the father of my children.”
“I found out about my situation after I gave birth to my fourth child. I had been called back to hospital for one more blood test,” Rebecca said.
The test which Rebecca came to know later, was in fact a HIV test.
“When baby was two months old, I went back to get results. In fact my counselor picked me up and took me to hospital.”
Rebecca says that when they reached the clinic, they were joined by two others officers and the development made her feel uneasy.
“When my counselor finally broke the news, I just cried. I cried for about 20 minutes in front of them.”
“My first question was to ask if my daughter was spared, but they said they needed to test her.”
After the initial shock, Rebecca says that she wanted to immediately learn all she could about HIV/AIDS.
“And I also wanted to know how much time I had left but the doctors reminded me that I wasn’t going to die anytime soon.”
In fact, the three had already set out a support system to help Rebecca and her family out.
“They identified clinic times, assigned the head of paediatric to look after my daughter and Dr Chaudhry supplied formula milk to supplement the breast milk that the baby would have to go without because of my status.”
“My counselor then accompanied me home and gently broke the news to my mother.”
Rebecca said her mother received the news with shock and cried the whole time without speaking a word.
“Later on, she told me that no matter what, she would continue to support me. She then called up my older sister and gave her the news.”
“On the same day, when my partner came back from work, I told him what had happened and his only reaction was to ask me, ‘who told you?’’
“That’s the only thing he said then he walked out as if nothing was wrong.”
Rebecca said the reaction confirmed her suspicious and enraged her.
“I saw the look of guilt and fear on his face and I was so angry, He knew but never told me! I wanted to just shake him to realize what he had done.”
Seeing her emotional state, her sister and mother stepped in to calm her down.
“They gave me one of the best advices I have received since my status and that was to forgive him and move on.”
Rebecca said her mother reminded her that she could not afford to play the victim because she had four children to look after.
“They told me, don’t sit down and cry on it. Focus on the kids and continue to trust in God.”
‘I realized that they were telling the truth, I would only waste my time trying to get something out of him.”
“It would drain me to do that so I didn’t even try. The support my family and counselor gave me throughout that period really made strong.”
However, Rebecca’s constant visits to hospital with her baby daughter would often leave her feeling paranoid and fearful.
“If anyone even looked at me, I would think to myself that they knew about me and baby.”
“So for two months, I stayed home because I was too scared to face anyone else.”
“I was worried about my eldest son because with me he notices things easily so I sent him to my sister’s place to stay for a while.”
“After my baby was tested and her results came back negative – I was so happy and relieved and so was my mother.”
“This is even after she was delivered normally and breastfed for two months.”
For Rebecca, the news was nothing short of a miracle but this wasn’t the only blessing she would receive.
“I became pregnant again and it was such an exciting time for me and the nurses in Lautoka.”
“I was the first positive mother in the West and I gave birth during the nurses strike on August 2007.”
Rebecca said the treatment she received was the best saying a few nurses stayed back to help in the delivery.
“It was a new experience not only for me an a HIV positive mother but also for them as medical professionals.”
The birth of her fifth child proved also to be the catalyst of disclosing her status to the rest of her family.
“My brother didn’t know about my status until someone from hospital called him and told him, thinking that I had not informed my parents.”
Her brother called her to try and confirm the information but could not get himself to ask.
“I had to corner him into asking because he kept beating around the bush. And when he finally did, I confirmed it.”
She said the disclosure was emotional but she finally felt that a big burden had been lifted off her shoulders.
“And yes, my father only found out about my status just two weeks before I gave birth to my fifth child.”
Her oldest son who is ten years old was also told of his mother’s status last year after months of sensitization.
“I slowly phased my son into understanding what living with HIV/AIDS meant and then finally in November, I told him about me and his father.”
“He asked me, does that mean that you and dad are going to die?”
“I replied, well everybody is going to die someday but we just need to look after ourselves properly.”
Rebecca has since separated from her partner saying that things just did not work out for them.
“I really cant afford the emotional baggage, the struggle of trying to maintain a relationship that’s not working properly on top of my children.”
For her, the priority right now lies with the welfare of her children and her plans to slowly disclose her status to her close family members.
“I am grateful for the supports that my family has given and my children. I feel really blessed.”
“Contracting HIV/AIDS has made me a better person, member of community and a mother.”
“It has taught me to be patient and humble and to be grateful for everything.”
While the prevailing perception about HIV/AIDS is that it makes people weak, Rebecca on the other hand believes it has made her a stronger person.
“What keeps me strong is looking at my children everyday – they are the reason I get up every morning even though sometimes I don’t feel like it.”
The Ovalau woman said despite her status, she looks forward to her future.
“There’s still a lot I go through but I take one day at a time.”
“I know I have a good future. I don’t know what it is yet, I will let you know once I get there.” Rebecca said.

This is a real-life story extracted from a book titled ‘B +ve’. The book is an initiative by Fiji Network for People Living with HIV and AIDS (FJN+). FJN+ is a non-government organization for people living with HIV in Fiji.

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