I was on the verge of suicide, but a knock on the door saved my life

Janet stands looking at a clinic where she attends doctors appointments and get her ARVS. (Courtesy)

For Janet (not her real name), one sunny day in January 2018 was just like any other.

She looked forward to being a Form Four candidate and conquering the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams. But little did she know that fate and destiny had conspired to throw her a twisted ephialtes her way. On this day, she woke up feeling unwell. Her siblings had already reported back to school hence she was home alone.

Her visit to the local health facility saw several tests conducted on the doctor’s recommendation. Janet was devastated when she was informed that she was HIV positive and her viral load was very high.

“My mother had travelled and I was all alone. I took myself to this clinic with malaria-like symptoms only to find out I was HIV positive. How was I going to deliver this news to my mother?” she poses. Janet says when she left the clinic, she locked herself in her room ready to take her life. But her quest was interrupted by a knock on the door.

“I was fighting so many voices within my head. I had made up my mind to commit suicide but how my legs walked to open the door, I don’t know. All I remember is that the person who had knocked was a friend with whom we have shared many secrets,” she adds.

Although she did not disclose to the friend what was happening, the idea of committing suicide vanished as soon as they started cracking jokes.

Her friend offered to prepare a meal and spend the night with her after Janet informed her that she was unwell.

The following day, her mother returned, but Janet could not disclose the torment gnawing at her. But her condition worsened and she had to be rushed to the clinic where the doctor broke the news to her mother.

“This news broke my mother’s heart. To cope with the situation, she resorted to heavy drinking,” Janet said. “The boy with whom we had grown up and had numerous sexual encounters was HIV positive but did not bother to tell me. (Although) he begged for forgiveness after I confronted him, we broke up,” she says.

Janet spent the entire first term at home as she struggled to come to terms with what was happening within and around her world. She finally gathered enough strength, went back to the hospital where the diagnosis had happened, and was given medication to use while in school. Her mother accompanied her to school and explained her situation to the principal.

“I was at my lowest moment. My mother sat me down and we had a deep mother-daughter conversation after which I resolved to rise up and confront life,” she said.

Armed with medication, and a new-found determination, Janet says she went back to school, not just to conquer the KCSE exams, but the virus that was threatening to chow down her dreams.

She was later introduced to the Operation Triple Zero (OTZ) Programme, that runs under the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The programme seeks to empower adolescents and young people living with HIV/AIDS to take charge of their health.

Here, she met fellow youngsters living with the virus and share life experiences while encouraging each other to adhere to treatment. She would soon meet her beau who was also living positively, and the rest is history. Janet and her husband are now blessed with a son, who is HIV-Negative.

Janet says she is grateful that she never ended up as a statistic of people tussling with depression and other mental issues as a result of their HIV status.

 “Living with HIV is like controlling a visitor in your body, it is not the end. What I want young people to know is that in this life things happen. If you have doubts about your relationships pause. And if you have to engage in sex, then use protection because just like me, you can have a loyal partner who someday in their life had a low moment,” she says.


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