Monisola will not quickly forget how she lost the warm embrace of all her friends in just a moment. They deserted her when they realized her HIV positive status. According to Monisola, “They had come visiting one day and I enthusiastically went out to buy them drinks. Before I got back, they had seen my anti-retroviral drugs. They confronted me the moment I entered, wanting to know what drugs I was taking and for what. I owned up and told them I had tested positive to HIV”.
“They wouldn’t even touch the drinks I had bought; one after the other, they came up with the excuse that they had somewhere urgent to go. Till today, I have not set sight on any one of them”.
She not only lost her friends, but also her mum to the cold hands of death. “Till today I have not recovered from her death. Sometime I just break down, when you look around you and there is no one to really open up to about those intimate things that bother you, no one to share your feelings with, people just seem too far away”.
“I am from a polygamous family, and you know how it is, they just don’t tend to care”. Up until now, despite the fact that she is openly positive about her status, she says “no one knows that I have HIV in my house. I have appeared in several media programs, and sometimes I just wonder if they don’t watch TV. Even my dad, he doesn’t know”.
Being HIV positive has been very challenging to Monisola. “Its not easy having to wake up in the morning and the first thing would be drugs, as these drugs have to be taken before your meals. This reality and the fact that it is for life is not a little thing to deal with”. Moni hates drugs and as she said “sometime I feel like throwing up”. In her case, she is not only treating HIV, but has also had to contend with some other opportunistic infections. “I am as well treating tuberculosis (TB), and you have to take all these drugs as well, of course, all before your meals. I have been treating TB now for four to five months, I still have some three months to go on that, I am responding well, if I adhere well, normal treatment for TB is eight months.”
Aside from the heavy medical challenges that her positive status has brought, Monisola has also had to face personal challenges in her life. “I had never really enjoyed parental love, mum tried to give me all she had but she died soon enough”. She recollected that her mother died due to negligence. “Dad was just not there for us, you know, he has other wives and children. I had always dreamt of being a broadcaster, but I was never really meant to go to school. Father wouldn’t pay my school fees. Each time I write exams, I always fail, I was never really good at school anyway”.
“I am still being haunted by my background; it has affected my fortune in life.”
Early in life, she had to depend on benefactors other than her father to live. “Sometime I hawk, just to have enough for us. I also recall that I have never been very lucky with my relationships; I have always been at the losing end.”
In preparing this story, Monisola proved to be a very emotional person. In the course of this interview, she would not look me in the face because she felt she might cry. “I am really emotional, easily moved to tears. I am the type that wants to be loved, and I give love, but was never really loved”.
The craving for attention
Monisola says that she craves attention and care is currently in a relationship. “I met this guy through a friend, he’s also positive, we were both lonely, he already lost his wife to AIDS, and he has a kid, which was how we became friends”.
My new friends
In her words: I have made wonderful friends now, in fact, I just disclosed to some of them recently and they took it in good stride. They have remained friendly afterwards, always wanting to know what’s up with me.
I tested positive in 2001, but I guess I had it before then. I remember in 1996, I was quite young, I had a boyfriend, a lawyer. A year after I met him, I became very sick and I remember he was always very sick. He worked at a law firm then. I noticed that I developed similar symptoms that I saw on him. Ever since then, my health declined. In 2001, my doctor suggested I do an HIV test. I tested at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). So, when you look at it, I had probably had HIV for nine years.
Even before I tested, I had a premonition that I might be HIV positive. I was just concerned about what I would tell my mum. When I got home, I locked myself up; I isolated myself for a long time, but I took ill. This was due more to my psychological state of mind than medical.
Disclosing my Status
When it was becoming too much of a burden for me, I called my mum’s siblings and told them. They were disappointed, but they gave their support. These were the only people that knew in the family. Had my mother been alive, I may not have been able to come open; I still don’t know how I would have been able to face her.
How I feel now
Sometimes I am happy, you know, I have accepted the reality and decided to move on. But one thing I cannot deny is that it has affected my vision and ambition. I had earlier lost all hopes and never even thought I could do anything meaningful again. I am okay now; I meet people, my little self with Prof. Soyinka. Now I realize there is abundant hope. By next year, I hope to go back to school.
Just the usual malaria, although even those who are negative also have to deal with that, and then the TB. I receive treatments at the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the General Hospital, Ajegunle. At NIMR, they behave crazy, but we may not really blame them, they have too many people to attend to. I tell you, HIV is really deep in Nigeria. When you go, you must be ready to devote the whole day for them, it’s a horrible experience.
Efforts of Government Agencies
They are trying, but they are more concerned about spending a huge sum on creating awareness than caring for those who are facing the challenge of living with HIV. They don’t do much to touch individual lives. That’s my opinion.