Life Style

 The Extra Time

From this week, The Midweek Watch will be serializing a book written by Piason Maringwa who is HIV positive.

 The story of my life with HIV

      Chapter One

    Introduction

Isaiah 1:18 says” Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet , they shall be as white as snow ; though your be as red as crimson ,they shall be as wool”, I have done everything bad in my lifetime except murder.

I have lied , stolen , committed adultery  infact I have broken almost all  of the Biblical ten commandments except the one which says ” thou shalt not kill “.I am however so very grateful to God for His unconditional love in getting me off the devil’s clutches in a unique way.

I never imagined that one day I would go to church and really pray and preach from deep inside my heart as during my childhood days I would just go to church with my parents and later alone just as a routine but now I find going to church so compellingly exciting and so spiritually rewarding that I always look forward to the next church service at our local church with much anticipation.

The advent of HIV/AIDS in the mid and late 80s brought with it many devastating changes in people’s lives and the world has never been the same since then. HIV/AIDs has caused much havoc in people’s lives as it indiscriminately devoured people from all walks of life without fear or favour.

These were the years I was just beginning to get a feel of what adult working life was like in the fast lane .I had just got a job in the Public Service Commission  as an accounts clerk in the then Ministry of Finance’s Department of Taxes now ZIMRA and was really excited and enjoying life.

Soon after completing school in 1982 I had done an accounting course with Speciss College and had landed this job in the Department of Taxes at their Gweru office and my future looked very promising as there was scope for promotion to higher levels if I continued to upgrade myself both academically and professionally in my chosen field.

On Fridays after work I would  join the other guys at Fairmile Motel or the Midlands  Hotel or at any of the drinking halls dotted in and around Gweru for a beer binge on Fridays after work at the end of which I would sometimes find myself with a lady of the night in my bedroom in the morning .

I am and have always been an avid reader of the various newspapers, novels and magazines found all over the place and  it was towards the end of 1985 when I came across an article describing the coming in of a new disease called “AIDs” which was caused by a virus known as HIV.

 The magazine  article went on to give a chillingly grim picture of how slow and frightening an HIV/AIDs death was.

For effect the story also carried a cross bone picture like the ones we see on electricity powerlines and sub power stations and to say I was really frightened is an understatement I was devastated as I went through a mental review of all the careless sexual encounters I had undertaken since 1983.

My whole body felt like some unknown powerful force had taken over and something terrible was moving slowly to engulf my whole body. I also felt I had done everything that caused HIV/AIDs and it was already too late to stop.

Up to this day I still think the way HIV/AIDs was publicised by the world’s authorities and journalists is responsible for the many fatalities we have experienced since its advent.

AIDS was portrayed as a very brutal and untreatable disease which could reduce a healthy person into a skeleton before finally taking him to Thou kingdom come and this frightened the guts out of many people including myself.

I think a lot more died just of fear even though they may not have had the HIV .

HIV/AIDs has been given many frightening nicknames in many languages and this has added more venom to its already dangerous effects.

  There was also something said  about HIV/AIDS which made many people feel ashamed of either getting tested or accepting being HIV and this was the way HIV was said to be  acquired and the kind of people who were likely to get it.

It was rumoured that those people who were into drugs , lesbians, homosexuals and prostitutes were among the biggest victims so many people died silently for fear of being labelled any one of the above and the situation has remained like this up to date though some improvement s have been made through the many awareness and intervention  programs being undertaken by the  many organizations and governments now at play.

There is however a lot more that still needs to be done to improve the situation as we continue to loose more and more people through denial and other related  factors

 The saddest part of the HIV/AIDs era is that every family or household has lost and continues to loose very useful members unnecessarily through denial, stigma and discrimination.

From the late 80s right up to the mid 2000s there was an unprecedented rise in AIDs related deaths .There were instances when in each village or location there would be several deaths every day.

Those who died then we’re so emaciated that coffins were buried almost empty .These were the years we  witnessed an upsurge in orphans than ever before a lot of people still find it very difficult to stomach the fact that they are HIV+ and this is because of the shame usually associated with being HIV+.

I am writing this story not as a way of generating sympathy but to try and help those like me regain confidence and get on with life like I and my family have done after I, my wife and our last and second born daughter born HIV+ in 1994 tested positive many years ago when there was no ARV to talk about.

I suspect that I might have got my HIV around the late 80s or early 90s as our daughter who was born in 1994 was born HIV+.

I am very fortunate to have a very loving and understanding wife who has stuck with me throughout and in some instances she has stood with me even when all the odds were piled so high against us.

She has forgiven me for having brought the HIV home .In some families daggers are drawn as children born HIV+ are angry with their parents for infecting them but this is not the case with my 28 year old  and mother of two, Rutendo who has never held a grudge against me for having infected her .

I shall try to move with you my dear reader through the long journey of our lives from the time we knew we were HIV+ in the late 90s to the present day . I am very happy to say even though most of our married life has been lived with HIV it has not been a life of regrets it has been and continues to be so fulfilling now that we have been blessed with four grandchildren from our two children Simba born 1992 and Rutendo born 1994. We had to discontinue having more children as we were now practicing safe sex.

Chapter Two

HIV and Fear

The most tragic part of all our lives is that all of us people born of woman will sooner or later die and nobody knows when or how. If we all knew how we were going to die we would all apologize to God long before our deaths as people have died very horrifying  deaths before and will continue to die very painful horrifying deaths whether they are HIV+ or not.

With this in mind I feel there is no need for anyone to feel afraid of being HIV+ if the affliction gets to you because it is not the only condition that leads people to death neither is it the only painful way to die.

It is normal for one to feel afraid of sickness and death but as time goes on people should learn to accept that death and illness are inevitable in our lives and hence must be endured with grace.

 It is my general belief that people must teach themselves or be taught on how to manage illnesses because some of us become a nuisance to others when we become ill and want everyone to stop what they are doing in order to attend to them which I think is very unfair because the world has to move on even if others are on their death beds.

Truth is when those now  seeking attention because they are ill in bed were healthy they went about their businesses as if nothing had happened but because now its them they want everyone to stay put and attend to them, what hypocrisy.

I have learnt a lot about being ill during the time I was very ill and during my long stay in hospital during the years 1999 and 2000.I have since then told myself that being ill should not stop others from going about their business as illnesses come and go from one person to the other at different times.

 I have also learnt that mourning and groaning during illness will not stop the pain neither will being afraid of death stop one from dying .

Fear is everyone’s worst enemy and should be defeated at all costs because it stays within us and causes us a lot of confusion, discomfort and a kind of reckless suicidal behaviour which is very harmful to our own personal  health and that of others .Fear alone is enough to cause someone to die as I shall highlight later on in this account .During the early and later HIV/AIDs era a lot of people died not because of AIDs but because of  fear alone.

I remember very clearly the kind of fear I felt in 1985 when I had convinced myself that I was HIV+ even though I had not been medically tested.

There is a lot of self testing going on all over the place where people just tell themselves that they are HIV+ without undergoing medical HIV testing but diagnosing themselves basing on their sexual behaviour or their partners’ perceived sexual behaviors.

Some have gone a step further and gone clandestinely to those on ART to ask for ARVs .

In my case I was really convinced that I was HIV+ after reading the article in the Parade Magazine of September/October 1985 and thought that I was just a moving corpse.

I was so overwhelmed with a kind of fear that caused me nightmares every night for quite some time .I felt that my life had become so short and that very soon I would be dead so there was no need for me to plan for the future as I felt there was nolonger any future to talk of.

My life was now being lived in the present without any tomorrow to think of .I told myself that I was sick even though there were no signs yet that I was ill.

At work I had been the darling of both my workmates and clients both black and white because of my spruced up appearance and good public relations. I really enjoyed my work and every morning I would thoroughly prepare myself for each day at work.

I would wake up around 5.30 am prepare breakfast, take a bath and dress up for the day and after breakfast I would go to the bus stop to board the ZUPCO bus to work.

That was my daily routine from Monday to Friday .In this routine I got to know a young lady about my age who also stayed in Irvine surbub and also used the same bus as I did every morning.

 She was stunningly beautiful and as I got to know her more I began to blush each time I saw her at the bus stop. I was 21 years then and was beginning to feel attracted to ladies in an adult way as opposed to the previous trivial love affairs with younger girls while at school this was really an experience and it felt really good to feel in love with a really adult working lady and  being in full control of the situation.

I think the lady also felt the same because at times she would buy me a bus ticket and would sit next to me on the bus’s two seater  and I would feel very pleasantly  uncomfortable as I breathed in her sexy  perfume and her closeness to me made me feel so thrilled and had this uneasiness in me  but all the time would do very little talking with her.

Our continued interaction later blossomed into a full blown love affair which was the envy of many who knew us and on the morning and evening bus nobody would sit on our seat as it was reserved for me and Anserkaria my sweetheart then. Our love affair only ended when I became a nuisance later on in life.

While at the Department of Taxes I had joined a team of very hardworking well groomed ladies and gentlemen whose unity of purpose made one have that feel of belonging and I really loved my work and workmates.

 We were working in a department that had been during colonial times the preserve of white people and this made me feel so privileged as I was the youngest in a team of over thirty people who worked in a very interesting   environment where we interacted daily with many people from a catchment area spanning over four provinces it was so good while it lasted.

My work was very simple and I really enjoyed it to the full. We started work at 8 am and had tea break at 10 am after which we would have lunch at 1.00 O’clock in the afternoon and came back at 2 pm then at 4.45 we would knock off and go home and that was our routine daily from Monday to Friday.

 Lunch time was my best time at work because it brought the whole department together to share our lunch together. All the thirty plus members of us would make a bee line towards the kitchen situated on the second floor where the affable Mr Basira one of the Department’s office orderlies prepared his meals from.

Mr Basira prepared the best teas and sadza I have ever enjoyed and still cherish up to this date he was such a good cook Mr Basira. It was during lunch our that I got to know my workmates better and what a friendly bunch they were.

Piason Maringwa is a teacher at Batanai High School near Manoti in Gokwe South District.

He has been living with HIV for more than 30 years and have been talking about his HIV+ status since 2004.

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