Luwiza, age 51 / Lusaka, Zambia


Despite the health personnel saying that, “You isolate her,” my sister was there for me. My mother was there. Would sleep in the same room. My sister would be next to me on the same bed, you know. And that helped a lot. Because when your close relatives neglect you: Oooh! That is the worst experience someone can go through. So you feel, “Oh, what is there for to live?” You give up and go. But once they are close to you, that also helps in your healing.

I had all the support from my parents, my sisters – all, I can say, my family members and friends. They really took care of me. At that time in Zambia, my dear, treatment was very expensive. You know, you would spend about $200 just to access treatment, because we didn’t have any free medication at that time. So you’d depend on, uh, relatives, mobilize resources, and buy the medication for you.

But for those people who didn’t afford, they died. And I asked myself, I said, “For how long will this go on?” But we’re thankful with the Global Fund. They helped through our Zambian government, that they brought in the free ARVs, the free TB drugs, and we started accessing . . . I was among the first people who actually benefited from the Global Fund, because I was able to access free treatments.

Getting older is a challenge. You know, what I used to do as a youth…There’s a big difference. I was very energetic. I would do this and that, but now, certain things I cannot do. I cannot go for a road run, which I used to do. I used to play basketball, which I cannot do now. [laughter] So it is actually challenging. But it’s a phasing thing. I mean, we all have to go through this. You know, you are born, you expect to grow, and you expect to get old.

The work I do now, being an activist – it makes my life easier. You know, I’m not a person who would sit home and just think, “What I’m I going to do? What I’m I going to eat?” I’m busy. I wake up in the morning, always want to help others, talk on their behalf.

And now, here I am. I’ve seen my children finish schools, my other first born child is even married, and she’s given me two grandchildren. Wow. And I, I thank my God this time. I said, “Yeah, that was my purpose of waking up from that bed in that hospital, so that at least I can see my children grow, and be able to see my grandchildren, which I never thought it would even happen.

There’ll be time that I’ll retire from this work I’m doing. I think the next thing, I have a small holding. I think that’s my plan. Once my children start to work, I know they will take care of me. I’ll just be on the farm, doing farm work, because I’m good at chicken rearing. Right now I have, uh, a piggery, you know? I think I can just continue doing all those things and then look after my grandchildren.

We have a garden where we plant vegetables that we sell. I love that. You’ll be shocked if you came to the farm, you’ll find me in gumboots, busy working. [laughter] And people would say, “Yeah, no.” You know, feeling sorry. I don’t like people feel sorry for me. You know, they’ll find me in the field, just because I’m HIV-positive, they think I cannot do that. There’re certain things that I can do even more than a person who is not HIV-positive. And that I get upset. You know, they would say, “Ah, no, let her not do this.” I’d say, “But why? What is wrong with that? I feel strong. I can do anything.” Sometimes if I don’t mention to someone that I have this condition, no one would even know because I would be in the field plowing, doing all sorts of work at the farm. So it keeps me busy.