IMPACT OF HIV ON THE FAMILY AND CHILDREN
I want to speak now on the main subject of this speech - the impact of HIV on the family and children. I am going to speak here from personal experience, so first I will tell you about the impact of HIV on me and my family.
In 1991, when I was 20 years old, I was living in the house of a preacher. That year, I was sick, I had contracted an STD. After treatment, the STD persisted and I was told I should go for an HIV test.
When the test came back, the results were positive. I went to the priest’s house and told him what had happened. Over a short period of time, he became more and more unfriendly. He said that he feared catching the disease from me, and said that it was embarrassing for him to share a house with me. Later, they chased me out of the house. I went to my sister’s house, but her husband felt the same way as the priest and insisted that I couldn’t stay.
I knew then that I would have to support myself, and find a place to live by myself. I looked for a job, and managed to find one at an organisation called Kara Counselling and Training Trust.
Kara is an organisation primarily concerned with HIV and AIDS. Although at first the job was just a way of earning money, Kara’s work gradually drew me further into the organisation. In 1992, 1 became the only woman member of the Positive and Living Squad (PALS), formed at Kara by Winstone Zulu, the first Zambian to declare his positive status publicly. I began to move more and more into outreach work, doing AIDS education for different groups and workplaces, always starting by explaining that I was myself HIV+.
In 1993 and 1995, 1 became pregnant. I became pregnant because I wanted to. It is very difficult to come to terms with not having children, particularly in Zambia, a place where childless women are outcasts. Darlington, my first son, was born in February 1993. Simon, my second son, was born in July 1995. My colleagues at Kara and in support group were not happy about me, a colleague, not following my own advice. Most people condemned me outright for having two children. I was seen as irresponsible, and a bad example to hold up as an educator. My own needs as a woman and a mother were not considered, and I had little support from people whose support I most needed. I soon had to leave my job.
My oldest son, Darlington was sick sometimes, but overall has been healthy. After two years, I could have tested him for HIV, but I have not done it. Because he hasn’t been very sick I dare to hope for the best. If the results were positive, I could not cope with that. If it were negative, I would have to face seriously the problem of who will look after him to adulthood.
My second son, Simon is a sickly child, and I have had problems with him at times. The sicknesses are never serious, but they just keep coming.
In the last year, my financial problems have worsened, as I can only pick up occasional work as an outreach educator or assistant on HIV research work. With two babies, one sick, it is hard to be available for work on some days.
I have also become more isolated. My sister lives in Lusaka, and I see her quite often, but she often speaks harshly of me, saying I have been irresponsible. But she is my sister, and my closest relative who may accept to look after my children when I die, so I keep friendly with her. She has also agreed to care for my children so that I can be here to speak with you at this conference.
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]