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Hosanna (part II): Cultural obstacles killed my husband, not HIV

Hosanna's husband passed away after being diagnosed with HIV in Zimbabwe. HIV-positive herself, she has since moved to the UK and founded Hwupenyu Health and Wellbeing in Glasgow, a support service for people living with

hosanna husband 2 web

Hosanna’s husband passed away after being diagnosed with HIV in Zimbabwe. HIV-positive herself, she has since moved to the UK and founded Hwupenyu Health and Wellbeing in Glasgow, a support service for people living with HIV and other health conditions. Here she relates the second part of her story.

The day after finding out my husband had HIV, I went to the chemist and bought his HIV prescription. I went to the hospital and confronted my husband about not disclosing his status to me. He looked at me and said, “If I had told you, you would have left me.”

I noticed in his locker that he already had a prescription, so I asked who had bought him the tablets. He told me that he had given money to his brother to go buy the medication. I felt that he could share such important information with his brother but not with me. That sense of not belonging became heightened at that point.

Nevertheless, I told him I would go to the UK to work for six months and bring some money. So I came here, stayed in Slough, worked, got some money and flew back home. I said, “We’ve got £6000 – we can buy tickets and get on the plane and go back to the UK!” That was my solution and as usual, cultural obstacles kicked in: his mother said no.

“He can’t go, he is going to get well, there is witchcraft being done…”.

I said, “No! We need to get on a plane and they do not even need to ask us for visas here. We can just get in and go.”

However, I was fighting a losing battle because my husband actually listened to his mum. He listened to the culture around him, and slowly he deteriorated until I lost him in 2002. I do not know what discussion he had with this mother and brother, but I do believe he must have said I gave him HIV. I remember when he died, his mum – when we were coming off the graveyard – she said to me, “Now, you tell me how this HIV came into the family?”

I said “I-don’t-know! You tell me: you were the one getting him girlfriends so why are you asking me how did it come into the family? You should know!”

I felt much abused, and being told that I was to blame for his death and this went back to culture.

Moving on after my husband’s death

That was September 2002 when my husband died. I thought, “I have this six year-old child and if I don’t go to the UK, if I die, then this child would truly be an orphan.” I was thinking, the way people treat orphans in this country is not that great.

I got my first job in Edinburgh as a care worker. I was working night shifts but my health was really deteriorating as I really suffered with herpes. I was getting many outbreaks and had swollen lymph nodes. I decided to go to the GUM clinic and be tested after speaking to my nephew, who is a trained doctor.

I went to collect the results after I got a phone call from them. The prognosis was not good. The doctor said, “You’ve got HIV. If you go back, you’ve got 18 months to live.”

I looked at him and I’m thinking, I’m not staying in this country as an asylum seeker. I cannot do this. And then he’s saying to me, “You were talking about a son. Well, if you go back you’re going to die within 18 months and that boy will grow up without you.”

I think he was playing on my weakness, which was my son, and obviously, I ended up going into the asylum system. Horrendous system. Dehumanizing! It is so dehumanizing. It is so shocking. It is a dark, horrible, morbid, abusive system. And they do it with your mind. They use the mind. Clothes here are very cheap. You can go into a second-hand shop and buy a dress and look really smart, but mentally you are messed up. And that’s what happened for the next four and a half years. I was in this quandary. It was horrible.

But I’m not a person who goes down for that long – that’s my personality. I bump up quite easily. So I did.

Read the first part of Hosanna’s story, about her husband’s HIV and living in Zimbabwe, here. Read part three of Hosanna’s story here. Find out more about her organisation Hwupenyu Health and Wellbeing here.


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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