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Strength in the face of ARV denial

By NAIROBI NEWS November 25th, 2013 2 min read

It’s six o’clock on the third day of January 2013. I am yet to prepare to leave the house for my appointment at the hospital. It has been ages since the first thing on my mind was my status.

Over the years, I have managed to ignore it, until I have to do my annual check-up. The reality is slowly starting to dawn on me. Anti-Retro Virals (ARV) have to be part of who I am. It is a hard fact to accept, but I have to get through this.

Like I have done so many times in my life, when confronted with difficult situations, I tell myself that I can do this.

And with that, I shower and go off to face the new challenge in my life head on. I am scared of being late for my first appointment as I navigate the crazy Nairobi traffic.

Part of me wishes I could be late so that I can have an excuse. ‘Maybe next time I will be ready to deal with all this,’ I try to convince myself.

Today is not a good day. I’m grasping at straws, hoping for anything to get out of this. But the gods are not on my side and I get there in record time.

Confirmed positive

The nurse asks for my card and says I will be attended to at 8:30am. It is 7:45am so I head to my car to pass time.

In the meantime, I read the terms of service that I am supposed to sign. They read:

• Patient must have been tested and confirmed positive for HIV. Seriously, would I be here if I were not? Positive is in bold.

•Patient terminates any other HIV/Aids care with other programmes or doctors.

There goes my long term relationship with my physician. I wonder how long it will take to warm up to the next doctor/ clinician. I don’t want to break up with my doc. Why is life doing this to me?

• Provide a referral letter to indicate shift of care if the patient was previously enrolled in another programme. In short a certificate of divorce from my physician.

•Join programme with the intent of long term or permanent care and management.

So now I have to enter into a commitment with someone I do not know. Is this what an arranged marriage feels like?

At this point I think of driving away and never looking back. Then logic kicks in and I have an honest conversation with myself.

How I am supposed to afford 10k on top of my monthly expenses? My son is in school and I have a contract job that may go south.

What choice do you have, girl? I approach the reception desk for the second time to tell the nurse that I am back.

I wonder how many of us here are faced with a similar predicament.

By waiting to be attended to in a not-so-private setting, I realise that I am not only having to face the second dragon in my second decade but I am also relinquishing my right to privacy… as the nurse calls out my real name loudly (why can’t these people use codes?)

I take the first step toward my new dance partner — ARVs. Swallowing this pie is going to be one humbling feat.

* Mwikali is a pseudonymn