Thanksgiving of A’Roach


You know how cockroaches refuse to be killed and you are chasing them all over the place until they run to safety in a hole? That is exactly how my friend described my life and me. A description I actually hated but which seems to ring true.

As I write you I am in the continent of Asia, and in India to be precise. This is my third month here. Yes, I raised the funds and how I moved from that despair in my last post to being here at this location is more than a miracle. More than a miracle. I will catalogue everything in my next post but for now I want to express gratitude to all those who assisted me in one way or the other. The bulk of my expenses was not from any particular person but was earned however a few people seemed to open the ‘floodgates’.

Thank you Ese. Thank you James. For the much needed material. Thank you Uche and Neuyogi for the psychological. And thanks to everyone who came anonymously with a prayer. May all your dreams come true.

Please do not be offended that I am not writing the post filling the gaps at the moment. I had to come back here today to take stock and be reminded that the universe can shift. For you.

Talk soon.

Love and Light







The Life Reboot


I have battled for a while on whether to post this or not. Somewhere in my mind, this blog is to explain the science behind my illness the way I understand it, and that there is no real place for my own feelings outside that. Don’t ask me why I feel that way, I don’t even know but that feeling sometimes restricts me from posting some of my real feelings. But suddenly, after a few things happened over the course of the last few months, it occurred to me that a lot of who I am and what I am struggling with is related to this illness. Whether I realise it or not, whether I admit it or not and whether I want it to or not.

Last year was a very rough one for me as for a lot of people. But it was different for me because I had to ask my self the question ‘how did I get here?’. How did I become this person who desires death more than life, who from being excited to wake up in the morning, was looking for ways to end her existence quickly. Who had lost herself so much that could not stand to see her own reflection in the mirror? Who had nothing to believe in or hold on to, not her faith, or her abilities or family, or friends or wealth?  A pretty girl with dreams who suddenly became an average single mother with no hope for tomorrow? It became clear to me that despite my best efforts to the contrary, life was just happening to me. And it was painful, and it was meaningless.

I struggled through severe depression towards the end of last year and mustered the courage to go to my parents’ only to be faced with the realisation that I was not free from discrimination.A few things my mum said made me aware that she would always see me as the child with HIV, that she felt my daughter needed to be protected from me and probably that I was not good enough for my own child. This discovery tore me apart but I returned vowing to work hard this year, succeed and relocate my child to live with me. Then another hit. It turned out my brother’s house which has been my lodging for this while would no longer be available to me, or anyone. He had been owing rent for a year and the landlord’s family had had enough. Why that included launching a vicious physical attack on me personally is still a mystery to me, but when it rains it pours. But for me this was the last straw; if I was broken before, I was totally beaten down now. My property that I had packed up and lugged around for 7 years would have to be lugged around some more. I could never really settle down.

I did my usual blood tests and my CD4 count was the lowest I had ever seen it go in all my years of living with this disease. Despite the ARVs, despite the new treatment centre. They said it was probably the new regimen. Or stress. Stay away from stress, they advised. I would laugh if I could.

But I had lost myself. I have lost myself.

But something similar to a  glimmer of opportunity just showed up. I have an opportunity to go to a training program somewhere in Asia for a little over half a year. If I can raise the money. Initially I was not enthusiastic about it because it seemed to be the sort of glamour less opportunities that present themselves in my life. Like an archaeological find that may or may not be valuable, but never the real burnished gem. But now, I see it for what it could be for me; the opportunity to find myself. And though I worry about missing my daughter for so long, and about what future lies for me beyond that training, I will take it if I can raise the money.

And I will give out some of my property the electricals, the electronics;  I will discard some, the soft furnishing, the extras; and I will burn some, the artwork and the utensils. Because those things are a sad reminder of who I thought I was. I am looking to see who I could be. Or  if being is even an option.






Happy New Year (Hopefully)


I cannot exactly say I am happy we are in another year. I do not share the ‘thank God for life’sentiment of Nigerians. Life to be life has to have a purpose and that purpose should set it in constant motion. Otherwise, what is the point. But that is a post for another day. Today I just want to take stock of last year with a view to…I do not even know.

A few good things happened  in 2015

  • I left LUTH for a much better health centre
  • I began ARVs
  • I came ‘out of the closet’ with my illness
  • I met someone
  • I got a job
  • I made a great friend from an (read:this) unlikely place
  • My mother replaced her car

Then things rapidly went downhill

  • ‘Someone’ turned out to be no one worth my time
  • I lost the job before I began, got another one and was fired from that one after two months
  • I was diagnosed with severe depression
  • I fell seriously ill several times
  • I was unable to move out to my own place

In general, 2015 was quite a horrible year for me. I am a bit more cautious about effervescent optimism at this moment yet I am looking forward… And ignoring fear. Or trying to.

World No AIDS Day (and other stories)


Wow! On paper it does not look like I have not been around but in spirit I have been away for long. Too long. And so much has happened. Where do I begin? I think I should start from  the latest.

By now you have heard about the Sugabelly rape story – if you haven’t google it and relocate from under that rock. It was such a distressing piece to me, not just because she went through a lot -and she did- but because in many ways I could relate. And it brought back all the ways I could relate so vividly. I cried and cried. My personal reflection on the event is summed up here , some of which you already know, and some you do not.  However, this culture of silence over rape and abuse that we seem to have embedded in our (Nigerian) culture is a good port of call in discussing ways that we can rid the world of AIDS in the near future.

In my opinion, If we are to rid our country of this illness then we must be ready to  stop pretending. We must be ready to speak about the things that are taboo. How we are unhappy in our relationships, our marriages and want out rather than sneaking around with multiple partners, how we are being beaten by a partner instead of saying that it is a family/ domestic matter, how we were sexually abused as kids, or raped as adults instead of running around broken. Conversely, we must also be able to empathise with people who have been in these situations or who are in them even if we do not understand them. They are not sluts, and prostitutes, and ashawos, and shameless, and irresponsible and stupid. They do not want it nor are they asking for it. They just are. Because HIV in Nigeria is primarily transmitted by sexual intercourse we have to lift the lid off all the situations that can make ensure that sexual intercourse is unsafe and/ or dangerous. because it is perpetuated by our culture of silence we must question our taboos.

So where have I been?

Let’s start with the good news

Towards to the end of July I began I job in a start-up.  In September I began ARVs and met someone who liked me irrespective of my status. In October my mum finally got paid her gratuity and in November we bought her a new car.

And now the bad news

In September I was fired  because my boss needed to micromanage me and I resisted. He literally wanted to arrange my work schedule by the hour so he knew what I was up to or supposed to be up to every hour. I thought that was ridiculous but offered a weekly update on my activities. Then one day the company director came and not finding him on his seat spoke to me. He became nervous and insecure and fired me.

In October I broke up with my ‘person who liked me’. Turned out he liked my pocket. He expected me to fund or at least subsidise his life. I caught him out in a lie more than once and I cut him off. (That didn’t take long.)

So here we are. This is the short version of the events because I really do not want to rehash the long. But I am on ARVs now and I have been doing well. I had no adverse reaction to the drugs which was a shock and a pleasure to my healthcare professionals because it is very rare. I may share details of that if you guys are good because only two people asked of me when I was away😦  But being on the ARVs without side effects empowered me so much that I began to share my status with my colleagues and friends. I am living openly now and frankly, it feels great! I feel free and unhindered; I no longer carry a burden. And I help people too. When they see me and find out I am positive they are encouraged that being positive is not death.

Otherwise I am just here wondering about my next meal and hoping that December doesn’t run so fast without me.

How ya living?




Yesterday, I Almost Beheaded A Man


Here is a post I wrote for a co-authored blog I contribute to. Every time I read it I re-live the emotions, raw and unyielding.


(This is a post I submitted as a journal entry for World Pulse. Unfortunately, it is a true story.)

I had braved the unnecessarily long, tedious bus ride – a journey of two and a half hours turned eight due to bad roads and heavy rains- just to see her. I never stayed away from my daughter this long – four months in the development of a toddler is a long time. When I freed myself of the emotional abuse that was my last full time job, I promised myself that I would finally do all the things I did not have time for when I was working, especially visiting my daughter- who lived with my parents- more frequently. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate that I would encounter so many difficulties getting re-established work-wise, that I would scrimp and save and live in near penury and be too broke and…

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Aaaaah Life!


Sometimes it seems like life is determined to squeeze you of any semblance of happiness or at the very least contentment. “You will be miserable, you will be miserable, you will ALL be miserable!” And what can you do? Suddenly, from an enthusiatic, bright youth,  you find yourself a grumpy, disillusioned, unsmiling adult with chronic health issues. Nothing to look forward to, nothing to light you up inside.
This is what I have been fighting my whole life. Even as a child I recognised the expression, the gait, the mien when someone’s inner illumination had dimmed. I never wanted to be that way… But it seems I am losing the battle, if I have not already lost.
I no longer wish to die. I realise how my absence will be dangerous for my daughter. I watched a documentary where a little girl was so badly maltreated by her relatives because she had no one else to stay with. Human beings can be nefarious. However there are things worse than death, and some others that feel like death.
This is a random muse. Recent events necessitated it. I feel so out of balance, so confused. Or maybe it’s  because the I haven’t been taking my immune boosters. The doctor actually confessed they were something like placebos and so since I had problems affording it anyway I figured I might just shelve it for a while. (Yeah, I know. It sounds like a bad idea to me too now that I think about it.)
So what’s really the matter, Joie? Everything. I keep trying to stand on my own feet but I keep falling. And it is not that the ground is far, it just (feels like) keeps being snatched from under me. Consequently I find myself afraid to  feel happy or excited or hopeful about anything.
This is the adulthood they spoke of?


Dreams Do Come True (cont)



I am so sorry that I stayed away so long. It has been a hectic month or two what with the Petrocalypse, the new government and everything we have all had a harrowing time. Thanks to everyone who commented. Below is the continuation of my freedom-from-LUTH story

When the doctor asked me to make a photocopy of the referral form, I made two. I wanted to see what constituted a referral in LUTH and how she had condensed my 6 years into one flimsy piece of paper. It had just a few lines for what my starting CD4 count had been, what it was presently , if I had begun ARVs or not,  if I was depressed or psychologically troubled and my reason for transferring. I was not really surprised that the doctor had filled my mental state as ‘stable’ and the reason for transfer as wanting a facility ‘closer to home’. It was LUTH after all, but how would things ever change if the discomfort of patients is not taken into consideration and on record?

I set out the next day bright and early for the Community centre. I was really nervous that something would jinx it and I would have to go on my knees back to LUTH. I was quite early again so I had to wait for resumption. The staff were polite as usual, although one lady who did not belong in the reception kept asking everyone who they wanted to see. Being the first person to arrive I was attended to first and I went upstairs to wait for the doctor. It seems the centre begins by about 9.30 am so early birds will have to wait a bit; but the 30-45 minute wait in an air-conditioned, calm environment is nothing compared to the several hours in over-crowded, boisterous LUTH.

The doctor came after a little while and invited me into his consultation room almost immediately. When I handed him the referral letter he asked if had been difficult to obtain to which I replied in the negative. He said he knew it would not be because they would probably be happy to be one person less burdened. He then sent me to the lab to have my blood taken for all the necessary tests after which I would come back to him to be clerked (or booked).

The guy at the lab was on the phone when I entered, there was another man there so he asked that I give them some privacy. I sat on one of the chairs just outside of the door of the lab. After a few minutes , the patient inside left and I thought I heard ‘next’ so I entered the room. The lab guy looked up with a surprised expression. ‘ Did you say ‘next’”? , I asked. No he said.’ Well, were you thinking it’, I asked again. He laughed and said I should come in. It is a testament to how elated I was feeling that I could be my mischievous self at the lab – where there are needles and blood. The lab guy gave me a seat and asked what I was there for. I told him I was not sure but that I had been asked to come and do a blood test before I was registered. He lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper and said ‘have you ever done a HIV test before’? Oh, I laughed, only one million times over the past 6 years. I saw that put him at ease, so I told him about my referral. About the same time he received a call from my doctor on the intercom who told him what tests to do with me.

he said he had to do a test to confirm I was HIV+, first of all. I wondered aloud if there was a possibility I wasn’t. He said some tests could be wrong and give  false results. I told him that in that case I would become a billionaire just by filing lawsuits. Unfortunately that was not to be as the test proved what you and I already know. Now, the real tests had to be done.

As he was drawing blood he began to chat to me. I really do not remember the particular details but I remember that he kept complimenting me. I did not look my age, I was quite cheerful, I was very pretty, etc. At end of it all, he told me my results would be out in a week and gave me his number to call to ask what my CD4 count was just in case I was curious. He also gave me my next appointment date, to come for the next blood test, As I left he told me I was doing very well. That really made me happy.

After the test I went back to the doctor who told me I needed to see a nurse. He described the person I was to see and it turned out it was the lady who had been asking me questions downstairs previously. She led me to her office. Once in, she began to ask questions about why I was there and my treatment so far. I explained the whole LUTH story and she understood completely summarising it as I needed personal care. I warmed up to her instantly. She then explained what the next step could be if my CD4 was low. It was the usual and much needed counseling given before ARVs are dispensed and I was finally certain I was in the right place. After counseling about the right way to maintain health during drug use she counseled me on how to keep up my health to avoid ARVs in the first place. Healthy eating, healthy living, close and critical attention to immediate and remote causes of illnesses in my environment, avoidance of stress. I was surprised she said these things because I had long suspected that they could contribute to health but I never realised they were very essential. He gave many examples of her patients who were extremely healthy and not using ARVs, just because they stuck to a healthy regimen. Then she said those same words ‘ you’re doing very well’. I was so happy to know that what I was feeling inside was not reflecting on the outside. She read my weight and blood pressure and then sent me back to the doctor.

I had to sit with the doctor for a short while so he could fill in my details in a new case note. I noticed several forms on his table. One of them had a list of the drugs and treatment lines that could be administered to the patient. I admit I stole one when he wasn’t looking. And then a curious form titled ‘Hospital Depression AND Anxiety Form’. That had a scoring guide ;

0-7 Nil

8-10 borderline case

11+ Case

I filled it and I am certain that I was either at the high end of Borderline or I was in Case. His expression betrayed nothing. He then asked the necessary questions, name, age, health history, etc, and I became a bonafide member of the centre. I was free to leave until the test results came out.

Unlike LUTH, where I would be up before the roosters to go to the clinic, I was advised to come for my results by about 12 noon. It took them a little while to find my file as the lab guy had just left for the hospital. Finally it was found and the doctor told me my CD4 count. 533. I was shocked. Apparently, whatever had been reducing my immunity had abated, and I was even above border-line. In other words my immunity had risen so high I was ineligible for drugs. Again. I had no doubt that stress had been practically killing me before.

There was a spring in my steps as I left the clinic. For the first time in a long time I felt very in control of my health and very happy with my life.