It Happened to Me - Being HIV Positive

About a month ago we sent out an invitation for people to share their stories with us; true life experiences that would teach, encourage or inspire us. I would like to introduce to you our first story of ‘it happened to me’ on Real Life with Kani. I have had the uncommon privilege of hearing moving stories by reason of my profession, but to say that I am touched by Adanna’s story would be to insult the experience. As you read the story, I want you to share in her strength and imagine all the insurmountable obstacles you’ve had to face and believe that somewhere in you is the grit to pull through. I wish to thank you Ada for having the boldness to share this story with us, and for finding the faith and strength to survive.

I look forward to your own story. Send yours via the 'contact us' form on the right pane or e-mail us @

It Happened to Me- Being HIV Positive

I would never forget the day I learnt I was HIV positive. If anybody had told me that one day a nurse, wearing a dress too tight for her, with a dirty white lab coat over it, would hand me a paper that said I would probably die soon, I would have easily guessed what my reaction would be; I would say that I would pass out on the dirty floor of the laboratory, or perhaps run into the streets like a lunatic. None of these things happened. I took the paper; I didn’t cry or run into the streets. I went numb. All my senses died. I walked home like a zombie, I still don’t know how I knew to stay on the side-walk and not walk into the fast moving cars. I got home, switched off my phone and went to sleep. If I had watched this scene in a Nollywood movie, I would have snorted and called it bad directing. Nobody would hear such news and not wail till their eyeballs popped. I would say it was unnatural but it happened to me. I woke up and then I remembered. I was sure the trip to the lab had been a dream, but it wasn’t. The paper was still there in my bag. I switched on the phone and sent a text to my Pastor, I knew he’d be beside himself with worry. I told him the test was positive. He called me, it’ll be alright he said. Of course it wasn’t going to be, I let him talk, then I ended the call.
For days I watched my family, no moment was ever right to break the news. I knew I would never tell them. My life became a fog. The next day was uncertain, the next moment could be anything. I didn’t want to think about the changes, about what it meant. I shut into myself and went on like nothing happened. It’ll go away. I wasn’t that ill anyway. Then the episodes began, it was like the virus heard me and wanted to prove its ability. I started having dizzy spells, then there was blood in the toilet bowl, the sink, I had sores, boils. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was ill, I had to face it. I went to the hospital and my symptoms were treated and I was given an antiretroviral. It will be okay now, the lanky doctor said. But he lied. It got worse. My face was buried in the toilet bowl first thing in the morning, my head burned and the stomach growls sent me to the toilet at every hour. I lost density, the wind moved me when I walked, sleep eluded me and left me in the cruel hands of the night. Gnomes hovered over my bed and I saw figures in dark corners. ‘this malaria is serious o’ my mother would say while wiping my head with a damp towel. ‘tell her’ the voices would say but I knew it’ll end her life, I couldn’t.

The doctor changed the antiretroviral. ‘You are showing serious side effects, we would find the right combination’ he promised and I nodded. Things got better, but the side effects were still there. I was constantly weak and feeling like I was going to pass out. Food tasted like charcoal in my mouth and even when they managed to travel down, they were disposed in the toilet bowl in the next hour.

Soon my friends started to ask questions, church folk wanted to know why I wasn’t as steady. Reality began to set in. I would never get married. What can I be with these things crawling in my blood system. I was constantly ill, where could I work? My life was over. Over! So many times I wanted to take too many of the drugs in my medicine bag. I had blood capsules, multivitamins, supplements, Panadol, avomine, generally stuff that never worked that the doctor insisted I took every day. Surely, if I took ten tabs too many, I would end it all. Or throw myself in front of a lorry, or tie a rope around my neck and hang from the ceiling fan in my bedroom. Surely, it would be better than the hell I was living. People generally tell you ‘it is well’ but do they feel what you feel? What qualifies them to make that judgement? The need to make you feel better? The lack of anything constructive to say? My Pastor tried his best, but I could smell his desperation like an ant can smell sugar. He didn’t know how to help me, so he was silent most of the time which was perfect. I didn’t need words. I would visit his office and sit for hours saying nothing and I would forget, until I left and I saw the world again.

Many times I made trips to the hospital; pneumonia, TB, typhoid, heart problems, it was as though the virus was doing everything to take me down. I lay in the hospital many times, nobody by my side, as I watched people who had the same thing I had in my blood, breathe their last. Many times I was sure I would die and nobody would know where I was, many times I didn’t. I carried my bag and walked back into my world as though I had simply taken a trip to Umuahia. It was my cover story; a trip to Umuahia. The doctor encouraged that I joined a group of people like me. ‘It’ll help to see that people live with this’. It was nice, but I couldn’t mix. I wasn’t like them, they had accepted this ‘thing’, I hadn’t. somewhere at the back of my mind, I still hoped it was a dream, that I would wake up one day and my major problem would be back to being ‘Mom wants me to marry someone I don’t’, but I never woke up. Every month I took the painful trip to the hospital and stood with the crowd of people like me, waiting to receive our life-line from the very grumpy under-qualified nurses.
It sucked generally, but I had to embrace the life I now had. I mean I woke up everyday didn’t I? True I felt like crap, but I could still breathe. Who says I couldn’t make something out of a crappy life. So I grabbed the rope that dropped from the sky and climbed. I climbed out of the pit of depression, of bitterness, hate, regrets and aimed for the stars above me. It wasn’t easy but I climbed, I had blisters and my hands bled, many times I wanted to let go of the rope but I climbed still. Sometimes arrows were shut from downwards, rocks hit me from the sides and I almost slipped but I climbed on. Today, it’s hard to see whom I had been back when the nurse handed me the paper that changed my life. I no longer live on antiretroviral, my CD-4 count drastically increased, the viral load dropped and the trips to the hospital seized. Now, it’s hard to understand how I couldn’t see that it was all going to work out for my good, that God knew what He was doing. I am still beginning my journey, the rope is still far from reaching the stars but I see them very clearly now.

To you who is out there staring at the test results every day, certain their life is over, I want to tell you that it really isn’t. Your life has just begun. Can you just trust God and take the rope? You can fight this thing, you can live with HIV, it doesn’t have to change your life for the worse, you can find ‘better’ in all of it. It really just depends on you. Trust me I know. It happened to me.

Adanna- Nigeria

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.

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