This has just been running through my mind for a while now.
When I tested positive for the HIV virus, I immediately felt that it was the worst that could happen to me! So, I started preparing my seven-year-old son for the ultimate: my untimely death! However, I did not know that life had a separate plan for me. I thought the rest of life's challenges and trials would stop just because I was diagnosed with HIV but I was wrong. Like every other living person, life kept throwing tantrums at me and I had to deal with every day's challenges as they came by.
Four years after I knew my status, a close and immediate family member also tested positive. Shortly after that, my mother was diagnosed with cancer of the lower intestine; she was not very advanced in age. It did not stop there. I lost my immediate younger sibling to the cold hands of death a day after his 28th birthday to an unknown cause. It was a cascading event of one bad news after another.
A good friend always said to me, "Bose, the best is yet to come." Perhaps, my experiences have helped me to modify this, as I know that "even as I anticipate the best, I must prepare for the very worst".
Beyond having HIV, life will keep coming at you, you just must be prepared. It is enough trouble living with HIV in this part of the world where I am writing this, however, you must build capacity to bear even more. Coupled with the fact that we still face a lot of stigmatization and discrimination in the society, now, the COVID-19 pandemic has further redefined the new normal.
Beyond HIV, there are quite a handful of social, financial, emotional, psychological, psychosomatic and mental health challenges you will have to deal with every day of your life, one of which, for me, is having to take medication for the rest of my life.
Times have really changed and these changes have come to stay as lots of people have lost their means of livelihood, more will still lose their jobs due to the effects COVID-19. This has led to an economic recession and affected the incomes of many homes, causing lots of depression. Things have been so discouraging here in Nigeria, especially for most persons living with HIV and AIDS.
Every day, the purchasing power of an average home keeps reducing, inflation is at an all time high at over 16%, the cost of essential commodities (food, transportation and utilities) are so high that people ration these things just to keep up. A family loaf of bread which was originally less than an equivalent of 50 cents now costs above a dollar. As of today, everything in the market has doubled or tripled in price. Even if there are policies guarding against some of these things, it does not work in this part of the world, as the government lacks the willpower to enforce it. As the regulatory agency of the government increases the price of petroleum products, the rippling effect is felt on everything, from commodities to transportation, to food, to utilities, just to mention a few.
Today in Nigeria, things are getting harder and harder every single day. Things are not getting any better. It worries me so much and it is so depressing when I think about how to survive daily. During the lockdown last year, other advocates and myself had to take ARV medications to the homes of people living with HIV in different communities and regions within Nigeria and it was so overwhelming as we met people who practically had nothing to eat. To think of the fact that some politicians had palliatives to support the less privileged in the society and were hoarding it, is mind boggling.
In the midst of all these trials and challenges, people still thrive and are pressing on.
I salute all of you long term survivors!
I salute all of you who have lived and thrived beyond all odds!!
I salute all of you whose life's tale is a story for posterity!!!