RECENT findings by the Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, NAIIS, revealed that among women aged 15–49 years are more than twice as likely to be living with HIV than men. As a result, women have been positioned as potential sources of HIV infection.
This has led to increased stigmatisation and discrimination that also left women more vulnerable to the infection. One of those caught in this vicious cycle is 22-year-old Adeola Ajetunmobi. She speaks about her experience in this encounter with Sola Ogundipe. Excerpts
Before 2013, there was this skin rash all over my body. I also had this nasty cough. Whenever I scratched my body, the place would bleed. I didn’t know what was the cause.
Wherever I went, I was told my condition was the result of an evil arrow. I started going from one church to the other.
The first HIV screening I did was negative. But no one was comfortable being with me because flies were always hovering all over me.
Before that time, I was not living with my family. My father was late and even though I am the eldest child, I had been chased out of the family house along with my mother for years.
In February 2013, when I could no longer bear the agony, and half dead, I went to Randle General Hospital, where I was immediately admitted.
While on my sick bed, I called one of my friends to help out with the hospital bills, but to my greatest surprise, I later received a text message from another friend who was not even in the hospital, that she heard I was HIV positive.
I was not happy to hear that from another person. No one had given me that information in the hospital.
I am the kind of person that in any situation I find myself, I look for the way forward, so from Randle, I was transferred to Mainland Hospital, Yaba where I began receiving treatment.
I spent six months in that hospital. My mother stood by me and took care of me there, but after I was discharged, there was nowhere for me to go.
I could not go back to my friend’s house, and my mother was still squatting with her own friends.
So I decided to go back to our family house. That was the only option I had then. There was a room there before my mother was chased out, so when I requested that my elder sister let us stay together but she refused.
The stigma and discrimination were much I was forced to stay in the passage for two years.
I was quite skinny, it’s only now I’m gaining weight. I didn’t have a bed, I used the wrapper as a blanket. One day, there was a heavy downpour. Water flooded the passage and I couldn’t cope with the cold. I knocked on the doors but no one opened.
Then I knocked on the door of one of our tenants and explained that the passage was full of water, and begged him to let me stay in his room until morning.
Eventually, he opened his door and let me into the room, but demanded to have sex with me. I knew he had heard I was living with HIV, but that probably didn’t matter to him when he raped me. I got pregnant from that incident and became a single mother at the age of 17.
During pregnancy, I had practically nothing, no money. The delivery was difficult, but I returned to the house with my baby girl. She had only four clothes and I had two clothes. I benefited from Prevention of Mother-to-child transmission of HIV, PMTCT and also did exclusive breastfeeding for her. Luckily, my baby is HIV negative.
Till today, I have not seen the man who impregnated again, even though he knew that I was pregnant. When I was hospitalised for six months at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, the doctors did not think I will survive.
My case was the worst in the ward. I was looking so emaciated and all parts of my body were covered by rashes and painful boils. My condition was so critical I was nicknamed “oku” meaning the “dead one”.
This was before I was started on Antiretroviral drugs. I did a series of tests and my CD4 count was zero. The doctors prescribed supplements which boosted my CD4 to one after a few days.
Weeks later after I was discharged when I went back to the hospital and announced I was pregnant, everyone was shocked.
The doctors couldn’t believe that I could even contemplate pregnancy in my condition, but I told them what happened, they sympathised with me.
By then my CD4 count had risen to 57. I was then placed on ARV drugs.
What I see in it is adherence, when you keep to the rules and regulation, you will be okay. My mother stood by me and requested to be educated about what to do and not do. I ensured she got tested too and thankfully she is negative. My daughter is five years old and is being taken care of by my mother.
I want to do something with my life. I’m from Ogun State. My primary ambition is to go back to school because I dropped out in SS2.
At times when I think about my lack of education, I cry because I believe I am wasting away. So if I see an opportunity to go back to school, I will be really grateful.
However, if that does not come to pass, I would want to start a business. I want to be an Ambassador of Nigeria. I wish I can get a sponsor to do that for me.
So my secondary ambition is to set up a business because of my child. Marriage is not a priority for me.
It is not that men do not approach me, but I have no plan for marriage now, I don’t even want any love affair for now. Perhaps later on when I have settled the other matters of my welfare and that of my daughter, I might think of marriage.