"HIV is Never the End," Says HIV-Positive Nigerian Woman

"HIV is Never the End," Says HIV-Positive Nigerian Woman

Rabi giving a public awareness lecture on HIV in her locality. {Photo credit: MSH, Nigeria.}Photo credit: MSH, Nigeria.

Rabi gives a public awareness lecture on HIV. (Photo credit: MSH, Nigeria)

Forty-year old Rabi Suleiman lives in Koko Besse area in Kebbi state, Nigeria. She is married without children. Rabi, who now lives with her third husband, recalls that her ordeal with illness and social ostracism began in 2009. Rabi’s three marriages were the result of her inability to conceive, and a continuous search for a partner with whom she could successfully bear children. In the course of her marriages she contracted HIV.

Weakened by continuous infections and emaciated beyond recognition, Rabi recalls that she was abandoned, equated to animal status and locked up in a hut meant for cattle in her family home. Her meals were pushed to her through a door opening by relations who refused to look her in the face.

Today, Rabi has a new story to tell. With the assistance of the Prevention Organizational Systems AIDS Care and Treatment (ProACT) project outreach team, Rabi was enrolled with the USAID-supported ProACT antiretroviral therapy (ART) program in the General Hospital, Koko, late in 2009.

She says her traumatic experience with sickness, stigma and ostracism is now history: “I am happy; I am confident of who I am now. Now I can speak publicly about my status.”

Transcending her initial status of rejection and abandonment, Rabi is once more a respected member of her community. Healthy and confident, she now supports other HIV-positive ART patients as a ProACT project peer counselor.

Rabi urges,

“Know your status because if you don’t, you could be at risk. HIV is never the end. Your attitude towards your medication determines your attitude towards your health. A lot can be said about you and to you, but it’s in your best interest not to worry about it."

With her support, two individuals were recently counseled, tested and enrolled at the Koko General Hospital facility in Kebbi state.

"I am happy and can do everything any other human being can do. I have a shop at home, I go to the market and I have a lot of friends. I always advise HIV-infected individuals to take their medication regularly, and to try to free their minds of worry.”

Favour Odunze is a former intern with ProACT, Kogi state, Nigeria.