Living with HIV/AIDS: A Nurse’s Story
I am a nurse by profession working at St Francis’ Mission hospital in Katete, Eastern Province of Zambia; I am 36 years old and was tested HIV positive in 2003 after being unwell for a long time, a period of more than one year. I was having fevers, dry cough, shortness of breath and I lost a lot of weight. I was just commenced on TB treatment at Petauke District hospital where I used to work. After finishing the initial phase I became very sick and my late sister who was a teacher in Katete came and collected me and took me to St Francis' Hospital where I was hospitalised. I was treated for PCP (Pneumocystis jevicii pneumonia). At that stage I did not know my HIV status, but being a medical person I made my own conclusion after being told that the chest X-ray showed that I had PCP. I became very depressed. I didn’t share it with my sister or my mother, but deep inside I knew that I was HIV positive.
After staying with my sister for some time and after she saw that I wasn’t improving, she talked to me and asked me to go for Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT). She promised me that if I was found to be positive she would not reveal this to Mum and Dad and the she would take care of me and support me in any way.
I was tested positive and shared my results with my sister. She encouraged me and told me she would never leave me, by that time Antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s) were available but very expensive. I thought I would not manage K180,000 a month as a civil servant. I was really hesitant to start them, I said if it means me dying let me just die.
I month later, my sister who I was still staying with died after a short illness. That was a big blow to me. She left two small children, one 8 years and another one just 5 years old. I felt very bad especially for the children as I thought tat they will have no one to care for them since I too was dying soon. I thought again about starting ARV’s as by then the price had reduced to K40,000 per month. As I was still debating within myself my good and caring doctor called me and asked me to start treatment.
I started treatment in August 2004 and since then my life has greatly improved. When I started I was weighing just 50kg and now I am 76kg. I ‘m very strong and I do any work. I didn’t have problems with the drugs apart from a rash due to Nevirapine as I was started on Triomune. I was switched to Efavirenz and the problems stopped. Since I started on ARV’s my life is a different story to tell. The ARV’s are really working and lives of people are being improved. I am a testimony of ARV’s and I really thank my Dr Parkinson for the encouragement that she’s been giving me throughout. She’s my mother - she’s played a big part in improving my quality of life.
I now work in the ART clinic helping people to take ARV’s and improve their lives. I do my work with all my heart because I’ve been through what they are going through. It’s not easy to take drugs every day for the rest of your life, but I manage and I encourage others. ARV’s are working and I won’t stop taking them until I see my children grow.
I am now taking Truvada and Efavirenz once a day and it’s much easier for me. My CD4 count has really gone up and the viral load is undetectable. Thanks to the ARV’s and above all to my doctor, Dr Parkinson. God should continue blessing her for the rest of her life, I love her so much.