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Talent - I lost my job when my company found out my HIV status

Man sitting down and smiling
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.

My name is Talent and I’m a marine engineer by profession. I work with one of the shipping companies in my country, Nigeria. I was on board a ship working for about eight months when suddenly I fell sick and my company decided to sign me off. After three months of being signed off, my company called me back to resume work, but still I didn’t know I had HIV.

After just a day back to work I went to the company hospital for a medical check-up and I was tested positive for HIV. I was afraid and I pleaded with the doctor to keep it a secret for the sake of my work, but he refused to and send my medical report to my company. At that moment I knew I had lost my job and I almost went mad, thinking what am I going to tell my wife? I didn’t tell anyone, until my wife later find out by herself that I was HIV positive and she was heartbroken.  

After my wife found out I knew she could not be affected, as well as my kids, because I had left home for nine months to work on the ship. With my belief, I took my wife and kids for a medical check-up and found out they were HIV negative.

Imagine someone earning a good salary as a marine engineer losing his job because of his HIV status. My son was out of school because I couldn't afford his school fees and I was broke. I was so frustrated I wanted to commit suicide, but the only thing that stopped me was that I couldn’t bear the thought of someone clearing up my mess and the fact that my wife and kids tested HIV negative.

Being open about my HIV status is really important to me and has given me relief, because I don't want to keep it a secret anymore. There’s no shame. I’m a normal man and I didn’t do anything wrong. I want people to know that the only stigma I’ve ever come up against was actually when my company found out about my HIV status and I was thrown out of my job.

I want to use this opportunity to encourage people living with HIV and let them know that having HIV is not a death sentence and even if they face stigma at their place of work, or face rejection from friends or families, they should be strong, because there is more to life. If I can still be alive without committing suicide as I thought, they too can live. God bless you all.

When Talent found out he was HIV positive, he faced discrimination from his employers. To make sure other people don’t go through what Talent did, we have to keep challenging HIV stigma when we see it and help everyone to know their rights. Living with HIV shouldn’t stop you from living a normal and happy life.

Personal Stories Disclaimer: 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/JohnnyGreig

Last updated: 15 April 2020