A Kenyan woman, Evelynne Shompa has told the touching story of how her best friend’s boyfriend infected her with HIV after she snatched him from the woman.
She has been discriminated for her HIV status and recently got in the news after a primary school refused to admit her son which later attracted national headlines in Kenya. She is also an activists for people living with HIV.
When interviewed by The Nairobian, she gave a detailed account of the poignant incident.
Asked how she got infected, she said:
“A man I was living with infected me. I was introduced to him by my best friend who was dating him. I did not have anywhere to go, so she took me there to work (for him) as a house help.
“I was desperate and I needed money. A few months later, he started showing interest in me and I could not say no. Before I knew it, he had broken up with my best friend.”
What was your best friend’s reaction? Evelynne said:
“She told me that I would regret it, but I dismissed it as just jealousy. In retrospect however, I suspect she must have known about his status since their baby died two weeks after birth.”
How she found out about her status, she said:
“I had applied for a job at a restaurant and they required my health records. I was confident because I thought they were testing for pregnancy or drugs.
“Two weeks later, when the tests came back, I was told I was positive. Actually, the doctor just told me that I had Aids and that I only had five years to live. Those days, medication was very expensive.”
Did you leave him?
“Yes. Then I went to live with his cousin who introduced me to hoodrats. Every one kept hitting on me and I became angry and bitter with men. I would insult them and move on because I did not want to disclose my status. Unfortunately, that’s how I ended up being raped.”
Then she told how she was brutally raped by a close friend:
“A very good friend. One evening, I was very high and he offered to escort me home. On the way, he overpowered and raped me.”
Did you report him?
“I didn’t know I had been raped. I only woke up the next morning in so much pain. I went to a chemist and got an emergency pill on credit (I was too broke to afford it).
“After two weeks, I fell sick and consulted my grandma who took me to a gynaecologist who found some decomposing rubber inside me. She also told me that I was pregnant and recommended that I abort the baby claiming that one of us would die.”
Did you abort?
“I decided to keep the baby. I wanted to experience motherhood before I died. Sadly, my baby used to cry a lot when he was born. One day, I just asked God for His will to be done.
Surprisingly, the baby stopped crying and even the doctors were shocked. This motivated me and I started believing in prayers, hoping I would get healed. I even started believing that I would get healed.”
You really believed you could be healed?
“I got saved and one time, even saw a friend on TV and I confidently told her that I was healed. She recommended that I should go back and get tested. I went to Kenyatta National Hospital with my baby and found that I was still positive.”
I got so disappointed in God and immediately fell sick and went to Mbagathi Hospital where I was given treatment and recovered. However, in 2010, the worst type of illness hit me. I got cryptococcal meningitis. My teeth started falling off, my eyes were sunken, my cheekbones were showing and I had molascum on my face. I also became very thin.
At the same time, I faced a lot of stigma because everyone I called to take care of my baby while in hospital came up with an excuse. I eventually got a house girl who stole from me and left my baby outside. Luckily, a neighbour took him in and took care of him.”
At what point did you decide to get on ARVs (antiretroviral drugs)?
“That was in 2012 after testing positive on several occasions. I even visited a herbalist in Molo hoping to get a cure. When I told the herbalist that the drugs were not effective, he asked me to lie to people that I was healed and that in return, he’ll make me a ‘shareholder’ in his business. I refused and decided to take ARVS. Even my son said he wanted to get on ARVs.”
How did you break the news to him that he is positive?
“I exposed him to the truth when he turned six. I would leave the ARVs boxes for him to see. He would read them and one day, he demanded to know if he was sick. I told him the truth and instead of being angry, he hugged me and assured me that everything would be fine.”
Have you ever been in a relationship after knowing your status?
“Yes. I had a man in my life a few years ago and we even had a baby. He knew I was positive and when we wanted to conceive, he started taking drugs that would protect him from the virus. I was already on ARVs for a while. We however broke up when he became violent. Him and my second son are negative.”
How did your son come to be so close to President Uhuru Kenyatta?
“He first met the president during a UNAIDs conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. Apart from Uhuru, he also met the First Lady courtesy of Yvonne Chaka Chaka who has unofficially adopted him.”
Has your life changed since then?
“My family has now accepted me fully and have become very close. In the past, we were not even allowed to use the family name. That said, we are not as rich as people assume. We are still the same.”
Recently, a school allegedly refused to admit your son because of his status. What are the other challenges you have faced in the past?
“Just the usual stigma that comes with being HIV positive. Sometimes, when I employ house girls, they leave as soon as they find out our status. Some even blatantly tell us that they are going to work for people who don’t have the disease.”
Evelynne Shompa is among many living with the virus and now creating awareness for the disease. She’s living a normal life and has continuously supported many others living with the virus as HIV is not the end of the world.