By Helen Lonn

Pain, frustration and uncertainty sank deep into Josephine’s bones the day she was declared HIV positive. Her pain could not be explained merely by words. In that moment, she lost the true meaning to life – her personality, self-esteem and future shattered. 

“I thought I was having a bad dream, yet it is gradually becoming a reality. Oh God, when will I wake up from this bad dream? Who will save me? The stars seem to have disappeared from the sky, the night seems to be too long, and the blue skies seem to have turned red. Even though it seems I am living, I feel the cold hands of death deep in my bones,” decries Josephine.
While I watched the hot tears run down her cheeks, she concluded, “I know this is witchcraft”.
I gave her my arms to undergo catharsis.

Some days later, she accepted to begin her treatment for HIV, and I was relieved. By the next appointment, she had changed her mind and during my home visit, she said, “I went for a crusade and a ‘Man of God’ declared me healed so I am not in for any drugs again.”
This is when I knew that I must change my strategy; I engaged her in an empathic relationship while she walked through the ‘valley of depression’ and denial. A long-term empathic relationship became imperative and through this, she was able to disclose her status to her support system. Together, we lifted the burden off the young woman’s shoulders, sparking the flicker of a smile on her face and helping her breathe new fire into the fading embers of what was once a smoldering dream. We helped change the course of another human’s day, week and entire life as she embarked on chronic treatment.

Today, she stands as an advocate for many who still live with uncertainty and who have lost hope due to their HIV status. Her life has improved to such an extent that she has even attained viral suppression and now, she stands to encourage many others to be tested.