Most people in the HIV community in Nigeria are very familiar with Frederick Adegboye. Just mention the Nigerian Institute of Journalism and memories flood back about how he was dismissed as a student when he went public with his positive status. Despite the intense media flurry this created, not much is known about Fred and his life with HIV. He was with Nigeriahivinfo.com for his one-month industrial attachment (internship) which ended in January and in this edition he shares his story with us. Not done, the HIV forum is looking at the problem of finding love especially when you are positive. This piece was also contributed by Fred, describing his personal experience.
I took ill in February 2003. I was seriously ill. I couldn’t afford to see a doctor, so I did not bother to see one. As though I had a choice. I became a pitiable sight. I was driven out from where I was living at Alapere, Ketu, Lagos. I had nowhere to go. I went from one cheap hotel to the other, seeking refuge. Soon, I had nowhere to stay as even the hotels that I was hobnobbing could no longer afford to have me around thanks to my pitiable sight.
Eventually I moved to a junkyard, and that’s what the place looked like. The only thing the owner cared about was his money. Despite the mess, this was a saving grace for me as I finally had a place to stay at last. The guy cared more about his money than my appearance.
It was in this hotel that word got to a pastor friend of mine that I was holed up in a hotel, dying. He came to the hotel and took me to his house at Ilupeju, also in Lagos.
He took me to the hospital where different tests were conducted. At this point I suspected the worst. Having read about HIV/AIDS before, and with all the symptoms that I had experienced, I waited with the calmness of the sea for the release of the result to me.
But, rather than giving the result to me personally, the doctor decided to invite my friend who brought me. He disclosed to my friend, who kept sealed lips about the outcome of my test. Without telling me the outcome of the test, the pastor asked that I leave his house. However, he was passionate enough because he offered to pay my hotel bills for six weeks. Having gone to LUTH with my referral letter without my knowledge, he handed me the letter and advised that I needed to go there to determine what my health problems really were. He directed me to the consultant he had earlier discussed with.
It was when I got to LUTH, that the consultant told me I was HIV positive. It was at this point that she now offered to counsel me. I did not betray any emotion. She directed me to Ranbaxy (a pharmaceutical company) to access ARV, after all the other necessary baseline tests had been carried out and my CD4+ counts were found to be 176.
When the results came out I noticed that people changed their attitudes towards me. The nurses who had hitherto been friendly just turned hostile.
Slowly, I moved about informing people of my HIV status. This was mainly to get money for the purchase of ARV, which according to the hematologist would cost N12, 000 monthly. I never imagined I would meet the level of rejection that I was shown by most of the people that I approached for assistance.
After spending about two months in the hotel, I decided to go to Ibadan where I have a sister-in-law who is a nurse at the University College Hospital (UCH). When I got there, my elder brother, who is a consultant surgeon at UCH, was able to get me on the ARV programme in October 2003. After six months, I regained my lost energy and health, and with it the zeal to want to move on with my life and dreams. I decided to go back to school.
When I look back now, do I have any regrets? Well, what is there to regret? What has happened has already happened, the most important thing is for you to move on with your life, to make the best out of what you have. You will be able to do that well if you don’t dwell on regrets. I got my life back and it looks promising, that’s what’s important.