Being diagnosed HIV-positive does not mean the end of life; it merely requires one to make adjustments to one’s lifestyle and to start living positively with purpose, determination, rigour and perseverance.
Elliezer Soroseb (45) and Sentia Soroses (43) found out about their HIV-positive statuses shortly before getting hitched 12 years ago. The couple from the Outjo district in the Kunene region told Vital Signs their mindset, surroundings and approach to the diagnoses are factors determining how they proceed with their lives. Soroses, who tested positive first, said finding out her status was a scary feeling and was a lot to handle at that moment.
“The first thing I did was to accept my fate, as it was not something that could change overnight; I had to come to terms with it. I was worried, also because my husband and I argued a lot and blamed each other of who gave who the virus,” the pre-school teacher narrated.
The soft-spoken mother of three – a boy of 23 and two girls of 18 and nine – said she received counselling and advice from healthcare workers and that motivation keeps her going until now.
Soroseb, on the other hand, said he had the “darkest cloud hanging over him” and wanted to get rid of his life. He refused to accept the news, and wanted to put an end to everything around him.
“I wanted to kill Sentia and then take my life. That was my plan. At the time, we had one child, so the plan was to kill my wife first, my child and then commit suicide,” recalled the unemployed Soroseb.
“I was very lucky to have found someone who took me through the whole process of acceptance and coming to terms with what has happened, and how to navigate through life with the disease. I was told – and this stood out for me – that whether I am dead or alive, the virus will always be with me, and there is nothing I can do about it.”
He has since accepted the fact that he is HIV-positive and said it doesn’t even feel like it anymore, as he lives a normal life with his loved one.
“The reason why we decided to be more open about our status is to spread awareness, and prove that a person can live a positive life with the virus. It is very important to know your HIV status because if you don’t know, you are capable of spreading the virus even further,” shared the couple.
Their decision to reveal their HIV-positive status to the public was received well.
“In our church, people were filled with emotions, some were sad, others were happy that we shared our story. The other reason for sharing is that some patients do not take their medication seriously.”
“The problem is, some patients don’t take their medication as they should and this can affect the person badly. I saw people dying from the disease, and others do not have the correct information about the virus; that is why we decided to start sharing our story,” noted Soroses.
Children and the HIV talk
The couple’s children are all HIV-negative. They only told the middle child about their status, because the first born doesn’t live with them and the nine-year-old is too young.
“It took us a while to tell her because it could affect her life and studies somehow. But when we told her, she was very emotional, sad and apologetic, and felt sorry for us. She is such an empathic young adult and I love that about her,” said Soroses.
She is happy their children were born HIV-negative, considering the virus can be transferred from mother to child, adding that it is important for parents to notify their teachers when their children are on HIV medication.
“Parents should be free to tell teachers when their children have the virus, so that we can make sure the medication is taken at the right time while they are under our care at school,” advised Soroses.
“Sometimes as a teacher, one only gets to hear about the HIV-positive status of the child towards the end of the year, while they could have been assisted from the beginning. We concentrate on the youth and the older generation, but what about the children going through this?” she asked.
An HIV-positive diagnosis is usually met with fear, stigma and discrimination, but many have made it a point to be vocal about their status to promote dialogue about the virus, which many feel is a death sentence. But it is not. – email@example.com