A woman from Zambia: marriage, motherhood and God

April 2011

By Anne

I first heard about the disease called AIDS in 1986.  I was living in Lusaka, Zambia.  To me, it was a disease that would never come my way.  My husband and I met at work when I was only 21 years old.  It was when we had 3 sons in 1996 that my husband developed oral thrush.  By that time we had considerable knowledge about HIV/AIDS.  When he told me that the doctor he was seeing at the biggest hospital in the country had requested him to do an HIV test I was not surprised.  The day he got the results he did not disclose to me until the next morning. The positive result did not surprise me. 

The following day we both went to a different center that was run the American government to have an HIV test.  Before the blood samples were taken we were counseled and asked why we wanted to do the test.  As we awaited for our results a meal was even provided.  After a few hours we were called into a room by a male lab technician.  He first disclosed my husband’s results.  It was positive for the second time.  Then followed my result; I tested positive for HIV, too.  I did not show any emotion the first two days. Then reality sunk in.  As far as I was concerned I had been faithful to my husband in the course of our marriage.  I had always thought he was faithful as well.  Reality sunk in—he had cheated on me.  I developed a lot of anger towards him.  After he got better I refused to have any sexual contact with him for 4-5 months.  The counselor advised us to use protection each time we had sexual contact.  I vowed to myself that we would always adhere to this.  My anger and resentment was overcome.  I always made sure I could physically see the condom before and after any sexual contact.  I asked him why he had been so selfish to do such a thing to the whole family and that he never loved anyone but himself.  I even asked him where he had contacted HIV from.  As many times as I asked him, he did not say until his death.

With reality dawning on me every day I asked God “why me” of all the population of the whole nation?  I had been faithful in my marriage.  I remember the next 3-4 weeks as I was on the bus to work shedding tears.  I always made sure no one saw me though.  The HIV result was a turning point for me to get closer to God.  I was very active in my church and kept myself busy with this kind of life.  My husband’s HIV progressed really quickly.  He had an opportunistic infection from time to time.  Our older son started asking questions why his dad was sick.  At this time there were no ARV’s available for us.  If they were around it was only in private health centers and very expensive.  Each time my son asked it was difficult to explain, but I would just say that his dad was not well.  I remember every time he asked I would go to the bathroom to cry.  I asked my husband several times to tell the boys, but he always refused. Then one day 2 weeks before he passed on I told the boys. Our oldest son was home from boarding school.  My boys were 16,13 and 10 years old. The oldest had a lot of questions.  Who was responsible? How?  God, was I at pains explaining everything to him. 

Because of his illness, my husband was unable to work at times and his earnings were low.  I couldn’t work for 2-3 months when the HIV attacked my husband’s brain and I had to take care of him.  He simply behaved like a crazy person.  During this time his friends took advantage of him and all of our family savings were used up.  My husband passed on July 9, 2001.  The boys were devastate and surprisingly (some people would wonder why) I loved him too and was equally heartbroken.

Over the years, by the grace the God, we have accepted what has happened. My sons are what keep me going.  We just take one day at a time.  In 2006, I found out my CD4 count was 84.  While my health was still okay and I had no opportunistic infections; I knew I needed to get on medication.  Today with meds, my CD4 is 383!  I since moved to the States and my sons are 26, 22 and almost 20 years old.  Every time I talk to my second born, he reminds me to take my medications because he cares so much.  I am thankful for my health, medications and having God as my anchor.  Because of them I will live to see my grandchildren!