A few days ago I was trying to relax after a hectic day when my phone suddenly rang. I love phone calls so you can imagine how fast I rushed to answer it and when I saw the caller ID, I was even more excited. It was one of my beautiful friends, Mandy. She is HIV positive too and she needed my help in picking up her drugs at our clinic the next day because she was not in a position to do so and I quickly agreed. After a few laughs here and there, I ended the call but as I put down my phone I just decided to retrace where all this friendship had started from.
About two years ago I was on a routine visit to my doctor and after my checks I decided to pay a visit to my counselor who has been very helpful since the first day I got to that clinic. There were a few people waiting to see her and I found a free seat next to a young lady. I said 'HULLO' to her and she answered. I introduced myself and she told me she was Mandy. I noticed she was a bit nervous and decided to talk to her. It seemed like she really had been longing for someone to speak to and she told me her story. Mandy, my new friend, had just taken a test and she was waiting for her results after a late night call from an ex boyfriend whom she had separated from about two years before. He had told her he had tested positive a few weeks before and just as a, by the way, wanted her to take a test. She told me she was in a new relationship, a few weeks pregnant and she didnt know what she was going to do if the tests returned positive. I saw my own face looking back at me because I had been exactly where she was...pregnant, scared and waiting to know if I was HIV positive. Unlike me who couldn't tell anyone because I was at a general hospital for my antenatal visit, she was at least at an HIV clinic and also had me to share her worries with.
I told her she did not have to worry until she had confirmed her status but also encouraged her by telling her my story. I told her if she turned out positive all hope was not lost and she would go on to have a healthy baby like my son Jeremiah who was about 3 at that time. I had to leave immediately, but we exchanged telephone numbers and asked her to call me when she got her results. She called me later that day and when I saw her number on my phone I silently prayed for a different result but also knew that if she had tested positive I needed to be there for her. She confirmed she had tested positive, but I encouraged her that all would be well and I would be with her all the way.
From that moment, I embarked on a journey of listening, encouraging, sharing, escorting her for hospital visits, the birth of her beautiful daughter, Belinda--now almost two--and the most memorable for me was when she entrusted me with picking the results for her daughter's HIV test which turned out negative. It hasn't all been easy for Mandy because she hasn't disclosed yet to anybody apart from me and so she has to do a lot of hiding while taking her drugs. However I continously try to encourage her about the importance of disclosure, mostly to family. Am hoping one day soon she will be able to do so because I personally know how it's much easier to deal with our condition when you family knows because they are the closest to us.
Now I look back and wonder what would have happened to her if I simply chose to sit and not say HULLO. Many times we think, it's not our business to even find out how your neighbour is doing but you can never know the power of a simple greeting. Am glad I did for I know the difference it has made, and continues to make, in her life.
Till next time-