When her mates were in school studying, Rakiya Zuberu from Kaduna state was married off to her husband at the age of 15.
Now 35-years old, Rakiya and her two children are living with HIV, a disease she contracted from her late husband.
Narrating her story to Toluwani Eniola of Punch, Rakiya said “He said he needed to seek forgiveness from me on a matter. I was curious; so, I asked him to go ahead. He said, “Please forgive me for all I have put you through. I knew I had HIV but I am sorry I didn’t tell you.”
Her husband had been down with the illness since 2005 but Rakiya was diagnosed in 2008.
“Later in 2008, I discovered I was HIV positive. I went to the hospital to get the anti-retroviral drugs. I realised that when I went to the hospital to collect my drugs, he would ask me to give him out of my own drugs which I did.”
In 2008, she was really sick and the doctors couldn’t identify what was wrong with her, so an HIV test was conducted but it came out negative. She was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis, which she took drugs for.
However, while she was pregnant with her second child, she always fell sick and when she had her baby and he was about three months old, Rakiya started coughing blood.
So, she went to a local chemist, who prescribed some drugs to her. When she exhausted the drugs, she went back to the chemist and he asked her to go to a hospital as he perceived there could be more to her illness.
It was at the hospital that another test was conducted which showed that she had HIV. Her children were also tested and they were positive. She was told to begin a two-month treatment but because she could not afford to buy the injection she didn’t complete the treatment.
Because of the fear of being stigmatised like her friend who was tested positive, Rakiya refused to disclose her status.
Asides from her father, who does not believe that there is anything like HIV, Rakiya told a man who wanted to marry her but did not show up again after she told him her status.
Life has not been easy with Rakiya after her husband’s death. Many times, she thinks of killing herself especially when her crisis starts and even though some of the drugs she uses are free in the hospital, she doesn’t have money to transport herself there.
Her children wants to go to school but they can’t even afford their daily meals.
Rakiya said, “Sometimes, they stay for 10 days without bathing with soap. Sometimes, we stay for weeks without washing our clothes because rather than use the money to buy soap, we would rather use it to buy food. My daughter’s limb is paralysed as a result of complications from HIV.
Sometimes, I think about killing myself because the suffering is much. Sometimes, I ask myself the essence of my life. Sometimes I say, “Why don’t I just die?” But anytime I survive the crisis, I would become remorseful for thinking about killing myself. But most times, I feel death is the best way to end the problem.”
Rakiya wishes her husband had informed her about his status on time and began treatment early enough.
She wishes she knew that she could protect her children against the disease while she was pregnant with them. Unfortunately, she had her children at home because there was no money to go to a hospital.
Rakiya wants women to know their HIV status so as to protect their unborn children.
“I regret that my children have to live with the virus and go through the pain of taking drugs every day. There is still a lot of ignorance in Kaduna about HIV. The government has a lot to do. All I want in life is to see my children succeed and never to suffer. My prayer is to get a drug that will cure HIV.”