MY JOURNEY TO HELL AND ON THE WAY BACK

MY JOURNEY TO HELL AND ON THE WAY BACK

NARRATOR’s NOTE: I am no writer. I merely told my story, and Pink Panther turned them to words. For being able to transform my grief to words, I thank him. And for reading and empathizing, I thank you.

*

My name is Dubem. And I am HIV Positive.

My telling of this story was prompted when a friend recently revealed to me that he’d just found out he was HIV Positive. He didn’t tell me because he knew I had the same status. (In fact, he was shocked when I told him I was positive too) He told me because he was confused, distraught and didn’t know anyone else to confide in. And so, I decided to tell my story, for him to know, for anyone else reading this to know, that with HIV, there’s struggle, there’s pain…and there’s also survival.

It started with a hook-up I was going to have two Decembers ago. An acquaintance I made online. We had talked a number of times over the phone, and decided to hook up at an LGBT seminar that was scheduled to hold in Lagos Island. The venue was picked in a bid to neutralize the threat of any intended set-up; plus my hook-up (let’s call him Emmanuel) was a staff of the organization in charge of the seminar. So the plan was, we would meet there, check each other out, and if there was any chemistry, we would adjourn to a nearby motel who owned some rooms that his organization had leased for some purpose.

The seminar was quite educative. Some things were said that I already knew, and some others I was happy to learn. Emmanuel was quite the good-looking dude, and I liked him. And judging from the spark of interest I saw in his eyes as he checked me out, he liked me too. That motel room was looking very probable.

During a break in the seminar, I went with him to his office. It was small and not-so-well appointed. And it had lots of medical equipment in it. I am a graduate of Microbiology but I’d intended to study medicine; disagreeable JAMB scores and an impatience to get on with my university education had seen me opt for Microbiology instead. But I still had an avid interest in all things medical. And so I questioned him about the equipment in his office. What does this do? How does that work?

Eventually, I saw a familiar small kit on his table. I recognized it to be a HIV screening kit; I knew what it was because I’d had my HIV test done two years ago. Emmanuel noticed my eyes on the kit and asked if I knew what it was. At my nod, he asked if I’d done my HIV test before.

“Yes, of course… like two years ago,” I said. “And I was negative.”

“Ah, two years is a long time,” he said with slight reproof. “You have to be checking your status at least every six months.” He gestured to the kit. “Do you want to check now?”

“Sure,” I said with the blithe confidence of an optimist. I wasn’t even the slightest bit uneasy. I’m a slight depressive, and the only way I know to battle the ailment is a perpetual optimism and a relentless cheer that I love to wrap myself with. I try not to let anything bother me too much. Besides, I was negative a mere two years ago; naively, I didn’t think I would become positive in the time between then and now.

That was not to be.

Moments after my finger was pricked and my blood taken, Emmanuel stared at the result section of the kit, and whatever he saw told me my status before he opened his mouth. My heart began a sharp drop to the pit of my belly as he turned to me and said to me in a low voice, “You are HIV positive.”

Just like that, my world ended. And I started my descent into Hell.

In that moment, my first instinct was to see, in my mind’s eye, the death of my dreams, the death of my relationships, the death of my life as I knew it. Even seated right there, facing Emmanuel, I could see that spark of interest snuff out from his eyes. That motel room no longer seemed like it would happen after all.

But to his credit, he maintained his professionalism, and said encouragingly, “I know what you’re feeling now is as if you have been given a death sentence. But it’s not like that. You still need to confirm your status. I have the contact of a friend, a counselor who works in the communicable disease section in Yaba Military Hospital.” He was scribbling something on a piece of paper. “He’ll run the confirmatory test –”

“You speak like there’s a hope my status will change to negative,” I interrupted in a dull tone.

He paused and stared solemnly at me. “No, it won’t change your status. But at least it will inform you on what necessary steps to make to secure your health.”

“What health? What health are you talking about?” I snapped.

“Calm down, Dubem,” he urged. “Like I said, this isn’t the end of your life. On a brighter note, given the fact that you tested negative two years ago, there’s a strong possibility that you won’t even be liable for antiretroviral drugs, despite your positive status.”

“What do you mean?”

He started to explain, but I was too preoccupied with my shock to pay attention. He noticed that, and finally said, “Look, why don’t you go to Yaba Military Hospital and see my friend.” He handed me the sheet of paper upon which was written a name and number. “Call him, and go and see him. He will walk you through the process.”

I stood and left his office. And that was the last time I saw Emmanuel.

As I left the Island, I found myself still reeling from the news I’d just received. I found myself thinking about how much this had to explain a few inconsistencies of my recent past. For instance, I’d been in the job market for nearly a year at the time. I moved from Port Harcourt to Lagos to stay with an aunt and her family to increase the chances of my employment search. Recently, I’d been going for job interviews at Zenith Bank, and by all accounts, I was right for whatever job they were offering. I passed the aptitude test. I dazzled during my interviews. And on the basis of my cousin’s opinion – she not-so-jokingly said once that Zenith Bank usually hires pretty people – I was good looking enough to be on the bank’s payroll. And then, we went for the medicals, and the HR informed us that we would be recalled for our employment letters in batches. It had been a month since then, and the three friends I made during the interview process had all been recalled, all started work in their respective branches. I was still the one at home, praying to get called any day now.

With what I’d learned about my HIV status, it became apparent I would never get that call.

However, I called Emmanuel’s friend (Chima) that same day. He asked me to come over to the hospital at once. I did. Again, my blood was taken, and Chima asked me to return the next day for my result and subsequent treatment plan. I went home, and sought to be by myself, sinking further into depression as I sat in a corner alone. But I was dry-eyed in my grief. No, actually, I don’t think I was grieving then. I think I was still in shock, feeling suspended over a black hole, feeling as though any moment, I would be let go to tumble down into that hole. I was devastated, and yet, I could not believe my predicament. A riot of emotions warred inside me, and none of them was my habitual sunshine of optimism and gaiety.

The next day, I returned to the military hospital, where Chima briskly told me that yes, I was positive (still!), but that I was not eligible for the drug treatment. I asked him what that meant. He started on a long medicalese about how my viral load wasn’t threatening yet, and how my CD4 count was still too high. He took me to see a doctor, who pretty much told me the same thing Chima said. The doctor added that I should live healthy; if I smoked and drank, I should stop, and I should eat well, take fruits, and drink lots of water. Throughout his speech, I listened, partly paying attention, and partly still unbelieving of what I was going through. Eventually a file was opened for me, and I was given a new date to visit the hospital. During the file-opening process, the desk clerk asked me for the number of my contact person. I recoiled inwardly from the question and its implication.

“I don’t have any contact person,” I said.

“You have to have someone,” she returned.

“I don’t need anyone,” I maintained.

“Yes, you do,” she countered.

“Why?” I snapped. This woman was starting to really annoy me.

“Just in case you don’t show up for any hospital appointment, we need someone who we can call,” she explained.

“Don’t worry, I don’t intend to miss any appointment, unless of course I’m already dead.”

“Sir, we need your contact person,” she reiterated. I could see that she was struggling to rein in her temper.”It’s a requirement.”

And I wracked my brain for the number of anybody who I trusted enough to risk him or her knowing about my ailment, anybody who might get a call about my HIV status and would not withdraw from me thereafter. I thought about my parents, my siblings, my aunt, my cousins, a couple of friends. I couldn’t think of anyone I could trust not to turn away from me when my secret was divulged to him or her.

There has to be someone, a voice urged in my head. You can’t be that alone.

And I thought of someone, a close friend of mine (Bassey) who is in the medical profession himself. He is the most compassionate man I have ever known. I was sure I could trust him, but I didn’t test that resolve, so when I gave his number to the desk clerk, I didn’t call him to tell him anything. As far as I was concerned, I would not give the hospital any reason to call him.

I returned home to my brooding solitude once more.

Meanwhile, my guardians had started to worry vocally about the delay in my appointment with the bank. My aunt’s husband knew someone whose daughter had gone for the same interviews and she had already started work. Unbeknownst to me, my aunt had queried her cousin, my uncle, the man who hooked me up with the Zenith Bank program, and he started prodding at the HR for the reason I hadn’t been recalled. The man he called must have known about the reason the bank was delaying, but wanted to be delicate about it. So he told my uncle to inform me to come to his office. And that was when I was enlightened to the goings-on, when my uncle called me to inform me to go back to the bank HQ and see so-so-and-so person.

During that phone-call, I wanted so much to blurt out to him what I suspected about the delay. At that time, my secret was weighing down on my soul, like the burdensome load hefted on the weary back of an Israelite during the period the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt and building up Pharaoh’s empire. I wanted to tell him. To tell someone. But I was afraid. And my fear made me feel so lonely. And my loneliness drew me further down the pit of depression. Even the family I was staying with had begun to notice my melancholy, and their attempts to get me to talk about whatever I was going through met with verbal road-blocks.

So I went to see the executive at the bank HQ. He thought I knew nothing about my medicals, and asked me to go conduct my blood tests again, this time on my own dime. He sedately told me that he was interested in knowing what the result would say, to compare with what the bank already had. Inwardly, I laughed sardonically at him. You know what they have, I wanted to say. Why don’t you not be a coward and tell me to my face? But I shrugged my acceptance of his instruction. It wasn’t going to be my money anyway. I’d called my uncle, and he willingly offered me the cash to go conduct the test at the same hospital that offered their services to the bank.

When I got there, and informed the consulting doctor of my situation with the bank, he retrieved my records. And he, finally, was the one who revealed to me what was in those files, what I’d already deduced. That I was HIV Positive. He also hinted that that could be the reason I hadn’t been recalled. As he spoke, he stared solemnly at me, expecting the visible display of shock and hysterics. You know, my reaction to when Emmanuel broke the news to me. But I simply stared calmly back at him, and told him that I already knew my status; and then I told him about Yaba Military Hospital, and told him about what the doctors had told me there. He seemed pleased with my calm, precise reaction and my proactive updates. Then he asked me if I still wanted to re-do the tests. I said yes. The tests were re-done, and days later, I returned to the bank executive with my results. He looked at the paper. I looked at him. I saw his features sag with disappointed expectation, like he’d been hoping for this not to be the case, like he was wondering how he would break the news to me that I would never be hirable by his establishment.

I understood my situation from his expression, and when I eventually got home that day, the grief finally crashed down on me. I thought about how in spite of the fact that the world liked to think of itself as past the discrimination against patients of HIV, it really wasn’t. If my HIV status could be the reason I was getting denied an opportunity at employment, despite the apparency of my good health, then I was very much being discriminated against. The knowledge of the fact that this was the kind of insurmountable stumbling block I stood to face in my job market endeavours saddened me. And with it came, for the first time since, my tears. I cried as my self-pity welled inside me. I cried as I realized that I was now an outcast. I cried as I remembered what Chima told me that first day at the hospital: ‘You have to be careful about your situation now, especially in your dealings with TBs. You must have to use condoms whenever you are hooking up. But you shouldn’t tell anyone of your hook-ups about your status. They could never understand, and even if they do, there would never be any intimacy. So, unless you want to remain celibate, and be tainted by your revelations, because we know that TBs are worse gossips than women, you have to keep this to yourself.”

I cried, and I sank deeper into my funk.

Meanwhile, my uncle had called his bank executive friend, and the man finally told him what he knew. My uncle didn’t call me to talk about it, no. Instead he called my aunt. And she must have reacted with horror, to learn that she was housing such an abhorrence in her house, amongst her family, because it wasn’t long before I noticed a change in her attitude toward me, a change in the attitude of the entire family toward me. First I was moved out of the room I shared with my cousin to one of mine alone. Then, she instructed that I start using a separate MARKED dish and cutlery for my meals. My cousins became distant from me, and one evening, when I was going to cut my hair, my aunt made sure to ask if what I had in the small bag in my hand was my personal hair clippers. When she asked that question was when I knew. That was when all the strange happenings made sense. And I was slammed afresh by the painful realization that I was getting branded by my status. Like the black slave by his degradation. Like the un-Raptured Christian by the devil’s mark.

My guardians didn’t stop there. They called my parents. And days later, without pre-informing me, I saw my father and brother drop in on an ‘unannounced’ visit to Lagos. I was surprised and suspicious of their sudden presence. My father wouldn’t tell me why he came. That night however, I got to know. Four adults – my father, aunt, uncle and aunt’s husband – sat me down in the living room and talked to me about my ailment. First they had questions, like how long I’d known, and when then they got to know that it was way before the Zenith Bank brouhaha, my aunt flew into a rage, one that she held in check out of respect to my father. Then more questions came, hard and fast, with my aunt’s husband acting like he knew more about HIV/AIDS than I did, and vocalizing his misguided knowledge. My father sat, mostly silent, throughout the meeting, watching me, even though I refused to meet his eyes; while the other three yakked and yakked, and judged and yakked some more, saying hurtful things most of the time.

Their censure stung, and a great tide of sadness welled inside me. Tears threatened, much to my horror. I did not want to exhibit my weakness; I did not want to show them that I was getting beaten down by my ailment. I suppose that must have galled my aunt, because at some point during the interrogation, she snapped, “And you are not even acting like you are taking this seriously, like you understand the gravity of this issue…!”

How am I supposed to act, dear aunt? I wanted to snap back. How, pray tell. By gnashing my teeth and bemoaning my lot with the tears that you can see? By exhibiting embarrassing, tearful displays of my distraughtness? I had no words for her, for any of them. Instead I struggled to maintain my stoicism. But when the tears started stinging the back of my eyes, I mumbled my desire to be excused, and fled to my room, where I gave free rein to my misery. I sat, hunched in a corner and wept again. I threw clichéd questions to God, like: Why, God, why me? Why did You condemn me to such a fate? I felt bereft, dejected, and so, so alone. I had to talk to someone. I needed to talk to someone. I desperately craved understanding. But who would I get it from?

Your contact person, a voice whispered in my head.

Bassey! And before I could question my resolve, I called him. And while still sniffling through my tears, I blurted my story on the phone to him. I sobbed and I talked, and he listened. He listened, he heard me out throughout my blubbering narration, and when I was done, he started to say his own piece. There was no recrimination in his words, no judgment, no questions, no rejection – just the much-appreciated outpouring of love and understanding. He talked to me about maintaining my peace of mind, as it was crucial to my healthy living. He talked about ignoring the discrimination of anyone who knew about my status, and for me to focus on me. He talked about a strict adherence to any line of action that would protect me and everyone around me. And because he knew about my depression, he talked about resurrecting my optimism and positive thinking. He talked about how HIV isn’t a death sentence, and how normal the lives of HIV patients can be, about how life was not assured to anyone simply because of their HIV status, about how death can come to anyone in a number of different ways. He talked about my dreams, how I should strive harder now to achieve them all, about how I should invest more now in my zest for life, and damn any hesitations or draw-backs. And then, he told me he would always be there for me whenever I needed him.

As I listened to him, I shed more tears, tears of a lot more of emotions, one of which was gratitude.

That same night, I eventually talked to my father and brother. And they accepted me, warts and all, without any question. My father looked at me with kindness and told me this had changed nothing about the love he had for me. And when they were returning home to Port Harcourt, I went back with them.

But I came back to Lagos. I got a job, and returned to the city to start work. After a few months of squatting with some cousins, I got an apartment and moved out, into my new place. And since then, my life has returned to relative normalcy. I still have the friends I’ve always had. I still get to have hook-ups whenever my job gives me the breathing space to have a social life. I still go for my hospital appointments and get told the news that I still am not eligible for the antiretroviral medication. One doctor took a look at my file one time and told me I needn’t come back for another six months, so minimal was my viral load. I still strive to be happy and pursue my dreams. And in my darkest moments (yes, I still have bouts of depression every now and then), sometimes, intuiting to my feelings, Bassey would call me, other times I would call him. And we would talk.

My journey to Hell was a sharp drop, and I am still on my way back from it, learning every day that I have a friend, and I have a life, and I have happiness.

Written by Dubem

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  1. Dennis Macauley
    September 01, 06:42 Reply

    Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of your life! Amazing!!!

    I previously saw myself as open minded and medically informed as progressive but a few years ago I disappointed myself. I was doing my NYSC when I made contact with this guy online and we agreed to meet up for drinks. That evening he came looking good and all and I was feeling the guy until he said he was positive. Like the wind was taken out of my sail and I made excuses and left later. No sex happened and I started avoiding the guy. He sent me a text saying “if I did not tell you about my status we would have still had sex with a condom and you would be fine with it. And it’s just silly you are avoiding me with all your medical knowledge”.

    Now looking back I am ashamed of my actions, as it’s often the isolation and rejection that kills faster than the virus. Maybe I would have skipped the sex part, but I had to reason to avoid the guy and who knows where that friendship would have gone.

    On the side the HR manager had no right to disclose a person’s health state to a third party. Its is unethical, wrong and actionable! You should have sued!!!

    • Khaleesi
      September 01, 14:43 Reply

      Yes!! Disclosure of patient medical records is a huge breach of medical ethics! You should sue as well as write a petition to the Medical & Dental council of Nigeria!!! Like several other things in this shithole, our anti – discrimination laws are weak & ineffectual …

  2. lluvmua
    September 01, 07:02 Reply

    Awwwwww so touching !!! Dubem dear just know that I still love u no matter what ok!!! *cleans tears*

  3. JustJames
    September 01, 07:14 Reply

    It’s pretty brave of you to tell your story. I also wish you a healthy and long life and I pray that you have strength to overcome whatever hurdles that come with the virus. You’ll be fine. ☺

  4. Deola
    September 01, 07:25 Reply

    This was so touching. Dubem your story really is inspiring. And i am glad you seem to be making it out of the pit that life threw you in.
    Sending your hugs and kisses dear. *wipes tears*

  5. simba
    September 01, 07:55 Reply

    Okay Dubem, It was a touching story and very vivid. Ur a strong soul. I ve dated a positive person, infact kept some of his ART in my house to make sure he doesn’t miss it,incase of a sleep over. There is a current research ongoing, abt initiating ART immediately or waiting till the CD4 count drops to 250-300. U can discuss further with ur Dr and decide ur options. Ur story touched me, cus it sounded very familiar. HIV discrimination is common any where there is ignorance. Cus subconsciously it scares people,and they wanna protect themselves not minding how u read or hurtfull their actions are. Just ignore their initial response, it’s mostly out of shock, those tht love u will come back. Stay strong cus really nuffing is changed.

  6. Blaq Jaqs
    September 01, 07:59 Reply

    Thank you Panther for telling for making this story a beautiful and relatable experience.
    And to Dubem, for sharing your story. I’ve always wanted to feel first-hand, the emotions and journey of someone living with HIV. And you and Pinky have made this possible. Thank you.
    I’ve heard of several institutions, mostly banks, who conduct HIV tests without the knowledge of the applicant and use it as a basis for recruitment. I find it unethical and appalling. If we had a more robust and just Legal system you should sue and make enough money to live on an island with clear waters and sip pina colada’s for the rest of your life!
    I wish you a beautiful journey ahead, which would definitely be filled with its highs and lows and tupsy turvy turns (this is not unique to you alone, we are all silently fighting one battle or another.)
    Thank you once again…

  7. King
    September 01, 08:09 Reply

    Ah Dubem my dear dear buddy..don’t despair and dont give up. But this is my first time hearing that someone could be positive and not take retroactive drugs…..maybe ave been living under a stone!…..Pinky by the way you weave a tale like a master craftsman eh woman hehehehehe….love u to bits dear

  8. mirage
    September 01, 08:10 Reply

    To say that was brave is an understatement!I ate every word,hook line and sinker.God bless your friend Bassey,your dad&your brother.That’s why I often say,no matter what life throws our way,our immeditae family are always the pillar,extended and even friends would fade but they remain.Was so touched and impressed by your story.God bless you*a thousand hugs*

  9. Ruby
    September 01, 09:21 Reply

    Now that’s D̶̲̥̅ way 2 Bounce Back! Hope ur aunt can eat her heart out @ her stupidity n shallow thinking.

    • Dubem
      September 01, 16:54 Reply

      LOL. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in a long time. Ever since I returned to Lagos, that is.

      • teebaby
        September 02, 23:02 Reply

        Dubem,its really nt easy …i av a likely story..am also +,buh no body knows ,i actually didnt kno ow I got infected or wateva….buh I thank God am still alive……..wld love to get ur contact and talk more…

  10. Absalom
    September 01, 09:43 Reply

    You are brave beyond words, Dubem, so brave. Thank you for telling this story.

  11. trystham
    September 01, 09:45 Reply

    Wow!!! I dunno what I wud do if I found out I were positive. Not being insensitive, but I wud die. The knowledge that I could be segregated would kill me. While I may not be much into physical interactions, I still need ppl around me like a junkie needs his fix. I wish u a lifetime of happiness.

    Blaqjaq, seriously, that is the worst. All these companies can form ‘compliance with international standards” but exhibit the worst form of segregation. I always believed when applying to them, indicating one’s status and sexuality always gave one an edge. Alas!!!

  12. Rapu'm
    September 01, 11:00 Reply

    Well, they’ve said it all. Thanks for sharing this part of you with us. Lots of love bro.

  13. Chizzie
    September 01, 11:11 Reply

    Sorry ..We’ve had our differences here, maybe this would explain why . Wish u a long life

    • Dubem
      September 01, 16:56 Reply

      Um, thanks Chizzie for the long life part. i appreciate that. But i don’t know how to react to the other part of your comment. My HIV status has nothing to do with our differences. I don’t know how this would explain why…

  14. daniel
    September 01, 11:16 Reply

    My God Dubem, I haven’t seen such bravery since Kanye west interrupted Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech. This alone shows how u conquered that hell trip.. Keep being strong, keep being you and keep living healthy, things could change.. #believe

    • Blaq Jaqs
      September 01, 11:40 Reply

      Errr… Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech was not brave. it was immature, unnecessary and distasteful. Everything that this piece is not….

      • daniel
        September 01, 18:58 Reply

        I agree that to some people like u it was distasteful, immature and all, but if it didn’t mean something to him he wouldn’t do it, don’t u imagine that somewhere in that VMA crowd that night, people agreed with his opinion? Do u realise that even some people who have read this post will think Dubem didn’t really need to out his status? Bravery doesn’t mean u just did a right thing, it means u were courageous enough to do something that is rare.

      • king
        September 01, 19:04 Reply

        Eh??? Sorry do not agree with u abeg abeg abeg..so even if it’s as rare as killing your own father as its quite rare in naija..awww common..your definition of rarity needs tweaking and a lot at that!….whaaaat…” picking up my very long schlong and aiming it at you oooo Daniel grrrr!

  15. olima
    September 01, 11:48 Reply

    Dubem! God bless u for sharing. Neva read a story dat left me weeping. My heart truly goes out to u. Can’t help it…. Sobbing. Tis well bro.

  16. Ace
    September 01, 11:56 Reply

    All I can say is Be Strong! This is really touching.

  17. Khaleesi
    September 01, 12:29 Reply

    Bless your heart Sista Pinky, you’re really a master (Mistress actually) storyteller!!
    @Dubem, I salute your courage & thank you so so much for sharing your poignant,painful story. You indeed stared into the pits of hell but happily, you were strong enough to step back from the brink and regain your life. The level of ignorance about HIV in our society Is mind boggling, of course that odious anti-gay bill further complicates things.
    I always thought that once a person tests positive for HIV, he had to immediately commence taking anti-retrovirals, thanks so much for teaching me something new today! Please remain strong, guard your health (phyical& emotional) jealously. Being HIV positive is not an automatic death sentence as we now know, you have no reason not to reach your full God given potential as well as to live out in good health the number of years God has assigned to you. Please forgive your Aunt, she was acting out of fear and ignorance.
    Dr Bassey isnt your only friend, if you need one more friend, pls get in touch with Aunty Pinky, she’ll let me know & I’ll extend my warm embracing arms of friendship your way. .. *hugs my dear**

    • Dubem
      September 01, 16:57 Reply

      Forgive my aunt… Hmm, I’m sure I will…

      Eventually.

      • king
        September 01, 18:38 Reply

        Please please please do forgive her and quickly you just don’t know how fast your forgiveness will better you even more than her!!! Pls do and not a moment more to waste!!!

  18. Lanre Swagg
    September 01, 13:06 Reply

    I wont comment on ethics of disclosure or stigmatization of HIV, which are epidemics in themselves as far as Nigeria goes.
    I will highlight 2 statutory issues- one, WHO, ILO & IATA ban the use of HIV to restrict either employment or travel.
    Two, WHO has reversed its traditional protocol restricting the use of ARVs according to a certain CD4 count. That protocol was purely economic, to preserve the stocks of the drug. It is now held to be unscientific, and it is preferred to administer ARVs upon first diagnosis, regardless of CD4 count. This new protocol seeks to prevent the person’s immunity from being depleted by the virus in the first place. WHO has gone as far as recommending pre-infective or prophylactic ARVs, especially for highly sexually active people, particularly homosexuals. Whether that is reflective of prejudice, is ongoing debate.

    Dubem, you will survive, and be all you can be. There are worse things than HIV.

    • King
      September 01, 13:45 Reply

      No wonder,,,I thot so too! Phew at least I wasn’t under a rock there…

    • Dennis Macauley
      September 01, 16:27 Reply

      About VISA restrictions based on HIV status, it still goes on Inspite of the ban. The Belgian embassy for example sends you to their own doctor to do a test before your visa interview. If you are positive, kiss the visa goodbye.

      These companies take advantage of weak labour laws in this country to do whatever they like. It is even unethical and actionable to do a test without informing the subject and thus getting his consent. Labor laws are weak in this country and employers get away with a lot of things. My company operates in 24 countries of the world, but it’s only in nigeria that they get away with a lot of unwholesome labor and HR policies. Things they would not try in Kenya even!

    • Dubem
      September 01, 16:58 Reply

      *panicking* Does that mean I have to insist on medication, eh Lanre?

      • Lanre Swagg
        September 01, 19:32 Reply

        Dubem, I don’t know if you can insist- you will be confronted with official protocol. It is not clear to me that Nigerian treatment centres have changed their protocol in line with new WHO guidelines. I think privately owned treatment centres are more likely to be flexible than the govt owned ones- NGOs such as the Gede Foundation, etc. I certainly think that it is good to receive ARVs immediately so that HIV leaves no mark on one’s immunity. You can be as good as new, instead of waiting for the inevitable drop in CD4.

  19. sensuousensei
    September 01, 16:36 Reply

    Life dares the human soul at every turn, placing giant odds on the path of its endeavour. And it asks mockingly, “what are you gonna do about it?”
    Some times its the stigma of homosexuality, sometimes its poverty, sometimes its sickle cell disease and sometimes its HIV. It could be anything. And we got two inescapable choices. You can give up and destroy that last thing that prevents Circumstance from finishing you off. Its called HOPE. And so it is that after suffering many blows from Circumstance, the death blow is usually self-inflicted. The second choice is to hold on and FIGHT BACK.
    Life dares me on a daily basis and I have fought dragons and infernal monsters both outwardly and deep in my closet.
    I chose to reply its dare with a dare of my own: AS LONG AS I HAVE AIR IN MY LUNGS, I AM THE UNBROKEN! YOU CANNOT WIN!
    Upon this battle ground I have planted the seed of my dreams and I shall water it with the blood that pours from the wounds life has inflicted. Blood, sweat and tears until I reap the fruit of success. So shall I exact my vengeance upon life!

    Dubem, care to join me?

    • king
      September 01, 16:47 Reply

      Hmmm sensi love..no be only Dubem ooo I join tooo ooo!!!

    • Dubem
      September 01, 16:59 Reply

      Real powerful words said here, Sensei. i’m with you. 🙂

    • Khaleesi
      September 01, 17:02 Reply

      Sista Sensei, me sef wan join, lets make our anger into a giant fist,put on glittering pink gloves and proceed to punch and kick the shit outta life for all the bullshit she’s thrown at us!

      • Dubem
        September 01, 17:04 Reply

        Hahahahahaaa!!! Khaleesi! You’re a real joy.

  20. Dubem
    September 01, 17:03 Reply

    I considered answering you guys individually against your comments. but I looked inside my bag and the ‘Thank yous’ were in limited supply. Lol. I just want to say to the entire KD House: ‘Thank you so very much!” You guys are unbelievably awesome, and such a strong support group. I feared and wondered what the reaction will be to this story. But I was encouraged to go ahead and tell it. Now I have, I don’t regret it. And that is because of the amazing empathy I have gotten here. I’m still living one day at a time, but it’s kind words like these that make me determined to live each day to its fullest. Thanks again, guys. Really.

    • simba
      September 01, 21:22 Reply

      As a professional in health field and having ran special clinics. ARVs as obtained in the west differs from here. Our Govt, doesn’t spend much on it so it’s limited. Even PEPs are rarely given in this damm country just cus of drug availability. But Dubem, u don’t have to be scared, like I said in my earlier comment, we have a research ongoing to evaluate the efficacy of initiating ARTs immediately or waiting for the earlier protocols. Dubem thru pinky u can reach me anytime u have issues regarding this matter. Cheers. Simba MD.

  21. Positive Dude
    September 01, 18:47 Reply

    I totally relate to your story. I’ve been positive for about a year now and still no Arv yet.. just a couple of immuno modulator. Stay strong and if you feel down (which will happen once in a while ) call ur Bassey. i also have my Bassey (His name is John and happens to be my BF). You can’t die except God says so. If you feel like giving up, remember people like us who have been there and are still strong.

  22. Andrevn
    September 01, 21:15 Reply

    I know what it feels to be on a sudden decline to the very heart of hell…yesterday marked my 2months of being positive…i still have my grey moments(my term for depression n despair) but i’ve learned to pick up myself from the ashes rising like a new born pheonix stronger and better each time. I do have my Bassey(a lecturer friend in my school) for now non of my family members know… I’ve set my 25th birthday as a duo coming out day… I for one know HIV is not a death sentence so i expend more energy doing the things i love n more… Living each day in giant strides is what keeps me…….. Thank you Dubem for sharing n surely you are not and will never be alone….SHALOM.

  23. xpressivejboy
    September 01, 21:36 Reply

    Totally relate with your story…it sounds so familiar and I must say I’ve had my share of life’s battles…and when the challenges of life come smiling at me all I do is smile back; I have no doubt you’ll be fine. I’m sure you’ll hit the zenith of your God-given potentials. Love You, Bro.

  24. dominic
    September 01, 22:41 Reply

    Brings back memories. I passed the zenith bank test in 2011 and did the medicals at Q life centre in VI. Before the test we were told of the HIV test being part of it and that if we tested positive we would be called for counselling infact we were made to sign a form authorising them to conduct the test. About 5 days later I got an sms that I should come for ‘evaluation’ of the result of my medicals. God!!! That night I did not sleep much, I was troubled as I had only become actively involved in gay sex about a year from then. But when I got there they told us(with the rest of the people called) that we had high BP and they needed to recheck. Well the BP didn’t come down because of the fear. Zenith Bank is one of the worse banks to work for by the way, they discriminate on all levels. My dear Dubem, thanks for sharing. Above all, I’m happy that you are back on your feet. Much love bro!

    • xpressivejboy
      September 02, 05:45 Reply

      Same re-evaluation happened to my cousin. She was re-invited to Q-Life Family Clinic for another check on her BP and luckily she scaled through this time. She got the offer with KPMG. But if the fellow were to be HIV+ be rest assured that he/she wouldn’t have been called back to be re-examined. *Speaking from an insider’s feed* That’s how the discrimination has heightened to. Dom, I’m glad you’ve moved on…they’re just not worth the stress or worries.

  25. Chuck
    September 01, 22:51 Reply

    Could I suggest that you tell people of your status if you want to hookup with them? It’s only fair, even if you intend to use a condom.

      • Chuck
        September 02, 11:16 Reply

        @xressiveboy, so you’d rather he lets other guys have sex with a positive guy without knowing the risks they are taking? That’s callous.

      • xpressivejboy
        September 02, 11:58 Reply

        Chuck, read between the lines. He’s of a free moral agent to, or not to, tell whoever of his status. He already is too careful not to have unprotected sex in order not to introduce another strain of the virus into his system. He has the consciousness of doing it protected…it’s not in the TELLING but what comes out of it; the deeper depression, the avoidance, the gossips, the side-laughters, and the list is endless. He already has a lot to deal with…so, save him the extra pain.

  26. @Eden_nude
    September 02, 07:18 Reply

    OMG! Dunno why I actually skipped reading this as at the time Panther sent me the link, but for whatever reason, I remain grateful over this piece and to Dubem, thank God you’ve gathered enough courage to move on!

    Well, I lost two of my parents to AIDS (that was then though) and been the last kid in the family who was just about 1+ when dad left, and 11 when mom left, everyone had eyes wide open on my status(even though I tested negative after mom’s discovery of her status) then.

    Infact, I can’t tell stories, just that I’ve not gone for anyother screening since then and becomes afraid anytime the topic is been discussed. Dubem just arouse that aspect of my life!!! Gush!

    • pinkpanthertb
      September 02, 08:10 Reply

      You lost both your parents to AIDS? That’s quite sad

  27. Lothario
    September 02, 11:48 Reply

    Dubem…it is well! Just be happy, you’re a better man because of this, undoubtedly. Stay strong!

  28. tikky20
    September 02, 17:35 Reply

    Thank you so much,Dubem, for sharing. Very relatable. Have a friend who had the same plight as you, and for 3years now, with a skyrocketting CD4 and low viral load, is still not eligible for HAART. And nothing whatsoever has changed about his life, or rather he’s living to the fullest now. Used to be a very shy person, now he can stand boldly in public and talk. Infacet,a lot of positive changes has emanated from his story, and its all good. God bless you Dubem for sharing this, and I pray for strenght and grace for you all through life.

  29. Neon
    September 03, 08:39 Reply

    ….I hate myself for not taking time to settle down and read this piece. My busy schedule kept me away and has taken toll. *sigh* I must confess, this is an award winning piece. The emotions, the thrill, the fall and the resurgence. I’m not here to talk about medical ethics and stigma.
    The heart is stronger than we think. It can go through anything, and even when we think it can’t, it finds its way to still push on. Sometimes we wanna runaway, ain’t got patience, but the heartbeat goes on. It signifies theirs life. Dubem! I don’t know you, but I already love and appreciate you. Your story (although days after it was published) kept me up thinking about life in a wholistic perspective. To Panther, I say thank you for understanding and knitting such an experience into art. Love you both to glitter. God bless KD. #NoH8

  30. SCR
    September 04, 07:15 Reply

    Hi,
    I’m in a similar fix, my BF who I love so much tested positive two months ago (from previous encounters before we met). We’ve had plenty of unprotected sex before the test…
    I did my own test but returned negative but waiting to do another confirmatory test next month (3 months window period) to be sure I haven’t gotten infected. We love each other so much, I know he didn’t mean for it to happen and we’re still together!

    • pinkpanthertb
      September 04, 07:46 Reply

      You two should just be careful with each other. Even when you test positive (if you do, I mean), you should still be careful. However its good you love each other.

      • @SCR
        September 04, 10:16 Reply

        We’re very careful… Haven’t even had sex since his test and don’t plan to till my second test and he’s on a property medication plan (which has been frustrating due to our messed up system).

        • pinkpanthertb
          September 04, 11:14 Reply

          Quite a sad situation. But if you need to talk, lemme know. There’s a kitodiariesian who dates a HIV guy and is in the medical profession. I can refer you to him for informed guidance.

  31. @SCR
    December 23, 07:26 Reply

    Hey Pinky!
    So out of fear I’ve not been able to go for another test until yesterday when I decided to get it over with before the end of the year.
    It came out Negative! I was so confused and happy, told my BF yesterday he almost broke into tears… He was so happy because over the months we had prepared for the worst. He’s on meds now and should be fine all things being equal.
    Just thought to come share here…

    • pinkpanthertb
      December 23, 07:49 Reply

      That is awesome. Congrats. Maybe you can write the story for us?

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