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Makena - it didn’t seem like a big deal when I first found out

Image of young black woman with braids wearing a beanie
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.

I am 25. My sister is the only family I have left. Our parents died when we were still very young. I found out some time later that I was born with HIV and that I would have to live with this virus for the rest of my life. It didn’t seem like a big deal when I first found out. My uncle took me to the hospital and I started taking antiretroviral treatment - that was a pat on the back for him.

As I was growing up so my fear of living with HIV grew. I was grieving a lot and began to live in denial. I used to ask God why? I stigmatised myself. I tried committing suicide several times in high school. I used to stockpile my medication and then throw it down the toilet on my clinic day.

I was separated from my sister so I faced all this alone. Later I developed resistance to the first-line drug combination I’d been taking. My viral load was too high and I was sick most of the time. So my doctor recommended that I move to second-line treatment. That was very scary because I thought that it was almost the last option in the HIV world. I was heartbroken but faced the reality of switching medication.

I was under other pressures at home and at school but my biggest fear was failing my new treatment. I was also worried about adjusting to the physical side effects of the new drug combination.

After a few counselling sessions I switched to second-line treatment, knowing well the side effects that might come with it but also knowing what to do if and when that happened.

This journey is tough and you need to have support. My friends really went out of their way to help me adjust to my new medication.

Today HIV is not a big deal to me. I can take my medicine in public and I am healthy. If you fight stigma and denial within yourself first it's very easy to live a positive life.

Coming to terms with being HIV-positive can be hard, particularly if you are young and alone. Makena struggled to come to terms with her status and get used to taking treatment regularly but had support from her friends and is now positive about life. Getting on treatment and accessing adherence support is vital to staying healthy in the long-term.

*These personal stories have been submitted to us anonymously by individuals who use our site. Some of the stories have been edited for clarity purposes. Some names have been changed to protect identities.        

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Photo credit: ©iStock.com/electravk. 

Last updated: 26 September 2019