For about two months, I had suffered from extreme fatigue and murderous headaches. Two flights of stairs would require four to five hours of rest. I had been an overactive child and was a bubbly woman. I was also depressive. But this time it was not the depression that was making me so tired, as I was faithful to my depression meds and knew what to do when.
I had been in a relationship with a violent, not-very-nice person for about a year. At 35, I was ready to take whatever came around. I cannot for the life of me explain why I thought to go for a HIV test before we started getting physical, and I never asked him to. It came back negative.
I went to the nearest hospital where I always got tested for malaria and typhoid. Negative for both. In the 90s in my country, unless you requested one, you had to look a certain way to get an HIV test. The doctor always told me I was not the type.
I decided to travel to Nairobi where I could get a thorough medical test. First stop, the shrink, who suggested I get my heart tested as well as have a cranial MRI. Get some blood tests also. I was told to spend the night at the hospital. Sometime after midnight the lab technician came for another blood sample. I have a phobia of needles and I asked him to wait till the doctor came in because he was the only one I trusted to do it well. In an hour, the doctor was there. I still didn't panic.
Later that morning I was given a 50-mg tablet of Diflucan [generic name: fluconazole] and Combivir [a fixed-dose combination of zidovudine and lamivudine]. Apart from the fact they were the most expensive drugs I had ever come across, I also knew that they were related to HIV as I had developed pharmacy systems. I immediately called for the doctor who told me to just take them and that my shrink would pass by. My spouse came to visit me and started having a strange conversation about AIDS. Apparently, because I am depressive, I could not be told. The shrink came later and I asked, "Give me a 'yes' or 'no' answer, am I dying of AIDS?"
He stated that HIV being present in my body does not mean AIDS. That sounded like "yes" to me. I asked to be discharged. I could not talk. I was certain where it came from. There was no insurance for such a disease. I wrote three checks for treatment and two months of medicine. I went, packed myself and my baby, and left my baby with maternal relatives and then went back to work. In two months, I was feeling great, but I do not think it was possible to forget the cold grip around my heart when I realized what I had. Fourteen years down the line, I have a site that deals with all medical issues and I am a chronic illness volunteer. My son is 18 -- miracles do happen!
Want to share your own "Day One With HIV" story of finding out your diagnosis? Write out your story (1,000 words or fewer, please!), or film a YouTube video, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming months, we'll be posting readers' "Day One" stories here in our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed. Read other stories in this series.