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“I was born with HIV”: A story of trauma and healing

“It’s okay,” your doctor will say, “it will be all right,” your family will add. Of course, you will believe them until you realize that it only becomes ‘Okay’ when you are at the hospital, and all things become ‘Right’ when you are inside the house or among people with the same issue.

The serenity prayer, ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,’ becomes your only hope as a Christian.

Praying to accept the things you cannot change, is the only thing you do when you realize that you are HIV positive.

As a study from UNICEF RWANDA says, around 2% of mothers with HIV transmit it to their newborn babies.

Being all young and discovering that you are HIV positive is not an easy thing. It’s a long journey full of anger, hate, loneliness, and depression. You realize that you are a victim of someone’s fault or struggle. Ikuzwe Uwayo Divine is one of the victims.

She is the youngest girl in her family and was born in 1998. Since she was young, she took medicine but did not know what was wrong with her. At age 6, she found out that she was the only child who was taking the medicine at home.

Out of curiosity, she asked her mom what was wrong with her. “I asked my mom why I was the only one taking the medicine, and she said that it is because I have a cough,” Ikuzwe says.

“I believed it right away,” she adds, “because I had a mild cough.”

We grew up in a society where being HIV-positive was considered a curse as punishment for your wrongdoings. Telling people that you are HIV positive was the same as saying that ‘soon I will die’ or ‘goodbye to my beloved family and my friends.’

For a mother telling a child about it, was like disclosing a secret only the officials have to keep.

However, the moment Ikuzwe turned 11 years old everything was revealed. She forced her mother to disclose that secret. She was still taking the medicine, but the mild cough was no more.

“It was not easy for my mother to tell me at first, but she finally told me that I was HIV positive like her.”

As a lady who was eager to start high school, this was not exciting news.

There are some of the expectations we create when we are about to start high school. You know that you are going to meet new people, see new places, new routines, etc.

The way you will carry your suitcase, have new classmates, meet new teachers, have crushes on different boys, get a boyfriend from one of them, and have girls you will gossip with, all these things make you giggle in your room.

But to Ikuzwe, all these became a nightmare.

“I hated myself, I hated my mother, and I hated this life. I couldn’t grasp the fact that I was the only child at home with HIV. I stopped taking the medicine. I knew that I was going to die. Dying young was the most painful,” Ikuzwe says.

Six years from then were the worst years of her life. She was battling hate, and depression, hiding the medicine from her classmates, and making sure that no one found out.

She decided to give her medicine to the matron.

“It was a wise idea. However, there was a time when our matron would come into the class and ask me to go out to take my medicine. Other classmates would stare at me and wonder what was going on. I also would feel excluded from others.”

Even though the journey is hard, there is hope. Ikuzwe believes that there is a reason why God allows everything to happen to us. She realized that living is a blessing because she saw others who died yet they didn’t have HIV.

She reconciled with her mother with the help of the doctors and others in charge of helping people with HIV and decided to take the medicine again.

She completed high school and took care of herself. She has now a good job that covers her basic needs.

Ikuzwe advises young HIV-positive people to take care of themselves and follow doctors’ advice.

“If you are still afraid that people will ostracize you if they find out that you are HIV-positive, take care of yourself, no one will know that you have it. It will be your secret to keep. Avoid unprotected sex and STOP SIDA.”

She is certain that if all people especially the youth avoid unprotected sex, HIV will eventually stop.

Rwanda Biomedical Centre, RBC, report shows that the newly infected people are 0.08% and 35% of them are young people.

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