I pray that the spread of HIV and AIDS will stop. But for it to stop, each and every one of us has to be aware of HIV and AIDS.
“My name is TJ and I am a 46 year old man dying from full blown AIDS. I have a wife and two small children, who are, till this day, unaware of the disease eating away at them and, probably, me as well.
I have been aware of my HIV status for the past 2 years, 7 months and 3 days. My diagnosis was made during one of those routine checkups conducted abroad. Every year, during the World AIDS day, I watch many victims of this disease speak about how they have come to terms with their condition and learnt to live productively with the disease. I admire them and I wish I was one of them, but I’m afraid, I am not! Unlike them, I never came to terms with AIDS and I never told anyone I have it. I have been to a few classes organized for HIV and AIDS sufferers abroad, but I made sure that no one in the classes knew me or where I came from.
I know that I am a coward and cruel because I live with a wonderful wife, who has cared for me throughout my illness. At the time we got married, we were the talk of the town. She was a beautiful young girl from a prestigious family and I was a dashing young man aiming for the skies. Our wedding was splashed all over the tabloids and people spoke about how perfect and lucky we were. Even though I have always known that there was noting like perfection in our relationship, I never believed that there would come a time our whole life would be submerged under the shadow of AIDS.
While I believe that I have infected this beautiful wife of mine, I have not had the courage or decency to tell her that I have repaid her dedication with this ailments. I think, but for the fact she may be in denial, deep down in her mind she may have suspected we have the disease.
I never came to terms with the fact I have AIDS and I may never will. Even with the body aches, the constant diarrhea, the never-ending catarrh, the scores of lesions on my body and the torture going on in my psyche, I want to forget that I have AIDS, but I cant.
As I narrate my story, I remember quite vividly that gloomy, dark Wednesday when the doctor took the joy away from my life, when he handed me the death certificate, when he told me I was HIV positive.
The diagnosis shouldn’t have come to me as a shock really, because the prospect of HIV had been lingering at the back of my mind. It had worried me a couple of times in the past, but I had always convinced myself that AIDS could never happen to me. But as I lay on my bed, in this dark room alone, I know that nobody; I mean nobody is immune from contracting HIV and AIDS.
For the last two and a half years, I have often found myself trying to pinpoint the moment I contracted this disease. Could it have been the time the barber cut me while trying to do a close shave on my head? What about the time my foot was sliced with a razor during a pedicure in an illustrious ladies saloon? Then I also think it maybe the time I had a minor surgery to remove hemorrhoids. During the surgery, I lost a lot of blood and had to be given a blood transfusion.
But no matter how much I try to convince myself that I contracted HIV through a syringe, blood transfusion or blade, I know that I am lying to myself. If I really and truly want to be honest with myself, I know that; no haircut, injection or transfusion was responsible. I know that I got infected with HIV and AIDS through the lifestyle I lead.
For many years leading up to my diagnosis, I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and with whomever I wanted. I had a great job and was making plenty of money. I was young, handsome, confidant and charming. I have always had the ability to attract members of the female gender. In-fact, way back when we were in school, my friends used to call me the ‘babe magnet’ or ‘Alexander’ (as in Alexander the great), because I had a reputation as a ladies man who could conquer and convince any woman to go out with me. I cannot put into words how hard I tried to keep that reputation. Sometimes, even when I didn’t desire a woman, I would chase her, just to fuel my skirt-chasing reputation and just to show off.
Lord knows I loved women, I saw the beauty in each and every one of them and I relished the attention I got from them. I remember a time in school when a group of us used to play a game where we would bet money on the one, amongst us, who was able to chase the most women in a twenty-four hour period. It was a known fact within our group that I was almost always the winner.
From my secondary school days, to my time in University, through to the conclusion of my NYSC, I treated women like a token chattel you could buy in the market, use and discard. I enjoyed the feeling I got from knowing I had such power over women. As a young boy, my mother used to tell me how much all her friends loved me and thought I was cute. “You have presence and a special aura my son”, she would say. “I know that it will get you very far in life”. Now as I remember her words, as I look upon my worn frame, I am scared to admit that the, so-called, charisma and aura got me AIDS.
I regret many things in my life… I regret using women the way I did, I regret the fact that I will not be able to grow old with my family and I regret not taking responsibility for my disease. But my biggest regret of all, is the fact that I didn’t come to terms with the disease. Just like the people on the Television programs for World AIDS day, I could have lived a productive life as a person living with HIV and AIDS. All the other people living with the disease are human beings just like me, but unlike me, they have valor, grace and dignity in the face of adversity. They didn’t let AIDS kill them… Like I am doing.
I wish I had the courage to come out publicly and tell the world what has happened to me. I want to be able to apologize to my family and to my wife. I want to be an example for all the young men and women who may feel as invincible as I did and warn them that a few moments of pleasure can not be worth the death sentence imposed by it’s consequence.
HIV and AIDS are real and it has no distinct face, yet it resembles every face. Every person has to be aware of AIDS and take upon himself or herself to be cautious. If they do contract the disease, they must not treat it the way I did. They must try to live and tell others about it. They must learn from stories like mine.
Taking into consideration, the advance of my disease and the agony I am in every day, I very much doubt that I will witness another World AIDS day.
If I do, it will be a miracle! If I am gone, I hope for the best for my family, my wife and I pray for her forgiveness. I also pray that the spread of HIV and AIDS will stop. But for it to stop, each and every one of us has to be aware of HIV and AIDS.
As I relate my story to you, I would like to use this opportunity, without shame or fear, to do what I should have done 2 and a half years ago and say that …My name is TJ and I am a 46 year old man living with full blown AIDS.”
I invite you to:
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