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Charmaine: Looking on the bright side of an HIV diagnosis

Charmaine (not real name) came from Malawi to the UK more than 10 years ago. She was diagnosed with HIV about 8 years ago. Sometimes people are lucky. They only get TB and they don’t get

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Charmaine (not real name) came from Malawi to the UK more than 10 years ago. She was diagnosed with HIV about 8 years ago.

Sometimes people are lucky. They only get TB and they don’t get AIDS, but that’s very rare. From experience in my country, I know most of the time these two things join together.

The first time I went to the hospital, they said I had TB but when they tested for HIV it was negative. At the back of your mind, you can never be surprised when you come back a year or six months later and they say you’re positive. That happened to me nine months after getting TB.

One hour after being told, I made up my mind. I said, “no I can still be somebody. I can do better.”

After leaving the hospital, I used the phone booth, I phoned my mother to tell her I had been diagnosed.

She was so happy. She said, “it’s good for you, you know why? It’s better to know than not knowing.”

If you know, you know how to take care of yourself; to look after yourself; you know what to eat; you know what to do; how to exercise; it will help you mentally. But not knowing is not good. By the time you find out it will be too late.

When I came to the UK, I was doing accounting. When I got sick I failed everything. I lost a lot of money. But you know what? I have to forget about it, and move on.

Don’t look at the HIV, because the moment you start to think about it, you will never achieve anything. Just think about yourself.

I spent almost one and half, or two years without going to the hospital. They tried to call me, but I never answered. I didn’t want to go, out of fear. I know most of the people at my local hospital . The problem is that one level is especially for infectious TB and HIV, so if people see me go there, they can just subtract and come up with the answer.

When I did go back, they said this time you have to take your medication unfortunately. Now I’m taking three tablets a day.

I’m coping most of the time, even looking better than when I was negative. The difference is that I make myself look better than before. It makes me happy to see myself glowing.

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You have always to look on the bright side of yourself. Don’t look at the negative side, because the negative sides will always put you down. The moment you start thinking, ‘I’m HIV positive’, you’ll always be down, you cant achieve anything.

You also have to know that when some people find out you have HIV, they will accept it. Sometimes people will never accept it no matter what what you do. They will always deny you so you have to have that at the back of your mind.

Move away from negative people, people who are putting you down and saying, “what is she? who is she?” Move away from those people and you will achieve a goal.

Malawi is called the heart of Africa. HIV is not a new word there. Even my own cousin was born with it. My young brother was an HIV co-ordinator in Malawi, the youngest in the whole country. He used to talk to me, encourage me. He said, “don’t worry my sister. Every time, each and every day we are meeting people like you.”

It doesn’t matter whether you are positive or not, it’s just your mentality. You carry on.

1000women@naz.org.uk

1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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