Mma looked at me her eyes filled with tears. She was so overcome with emotion that she could hardly speak. I had to look down as I felt my own tears gathering behind my eyelids. I must remain professional. I must not get drawn in.

“Doctor, are you sure? Are you sure this is my result? Could there be a mistake?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. I had seen this scenario many times and it never gets easier.

“I am sorry, Mma. This is the second time we’ve done it and it’s still positive.”

“But how could that be?” she burst out. “How could I be HIV positive? I am married! I don’t sleep around.”

She stopped again as the tears gathered, her shoulders shook as she cried, so broken, so devastated by the information I had just given her.

I had tried to be as gentle as I could. I’d given the usual warning shot and let her know that I had no good news for her. But still, no matter how we prepare patients to receive the news, it’s never easy to hear that you have HIV.

I swallowed back the words I was about to speak. Decided to allow her time to cry. After a while, she raised her head.

“Doctor, please tell me, how could I be HIV positive? I was brought up to be well behaved. I met my husband when I was a virgin. I never so much as showed any man my pants before then. And in twenty-four years of marriage, I have never slept with anyone else, apart from my husband. So how could this be?”

“There are several ways of contracting HIV. We would have to look and see how this might have happened. Sleeping with someone infected with HIV is one way of catching it. But there are other ways.”

“Other ways?”

“Well, for instance, if you’ve ever had a blood transfusion that was contaminated with HIV…”

“I’ve never had a blood transfusion.”

“Injected drugs before?”


“Okay, so those are out. Another way would be if you were accidentally pricked with a needle that had the virus on it…”

She paused as she gave it some thought.

“No, I haven’t ever had any injections. I had immunisations as a child but that wouldn’t have caused it, I don’t think.”

“Okay,” I replied. “Another way will be if for example…” I paused. It is never easy talking about sensitive issues like infidelity. I cleared my throat and continued: “if for example your partner has slept with someone who has HIV or if he ever received blood contaminated with HIV.”

She looked at me. Her eyes widened as realisation dawned on her. Then she asked in a quiet voice. “Do you think I may have got this from my husband?”

“I have no idea. You know best what may have happened.”

She looked away.

“I never imagined I would be HIV positive. I thought it only happens to people who are careless and have no morals. But not to me – I’ve never done anything wrong…”

She started crying again.

“Perhaps we could meet up in the next few days and talk about what you want to do.”

“Yes.” She shook her head, lost in grief.

Stay tuned as we follow Mma on her journey with HIV.

Do you know that, as current figures stand, an estimated 1 in 32 black women in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV in the course of their lives?

• How are our Black sisters getting HIV?

• What should we be doing to change the statistics?

20 Responses

  1. With no one to blame, i think both partner should respect each other and be open to use condom. Having it at the back of your mind that you are only trying to be safe in life for each other and your children.

  2. This is so sad. As the ibos of Nigeria say, ‘onye na kotero ogodo ya ekote’…somtimes you do all you can to avoid the hassles of life but still they come knocking. Dr. please how effective are the HIV drugs and how many years have they been known to add to the sufferer’s life before the inevitable? i appreciate your blog.

    1. Hi Jetmum, current drugs for HIV are very effective. They do not ‘cure’ but are able to stop the virus from multiplying. They have to be taken for life.
      Its difficult to put a specific number to the years one would live but many people with HIV who are on appropriate treatment are now living as long as people who don’t have HIV.

  3. Faithfulness, faithfulness, faithfulness! how can you know that your spouse is faithful? O Lord help! Only the regenerated in heart can be faithful. Please good people, if you ever suspect your spouse, call a round table conference!!!

    1. Hello Joy, I like the idea of a round table conference 🙂
      Such issues should be tackled and not buried in silence. The consequences of silence (HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, not to talk of other effects like emotional trauma to the spouse) can be quite grave.
      It will be interesting to hear from any sister out there who may have been in this situation and wishes to share with us.

  4. This is real and it’s happening everyday and everywhere. Being faithful is not enough but it boils down to being faithful to a faithful partner. There is hope for everyone irrespective of the trauma such revelation can bring.

      1. Honey, that’s true as people just assume you have been immoral if you have HIV forgetting that there are many other ways of catching it.

  5. Scary stuff, but for those who have God, we cannot give in to fear after we have done everything we can to be safe from such a horrible disease. I think the fact that her husband could als have contacted HIV from an accidental needle injury makes it quite worrisome too. Where can we buy our own needles? Tried it before but gave up on the idea. I once asked my hair dresser ehat she does to sterilise her needles and she said she washes them in bleach. Plesse does anyone know how effective this method is? Also the hairdresser if they are positive could prick themselves with your needle too. Maybe braiding and bonding are the answer.

    1. Hi Kay, needles can be bought in some hair saloons, shops that sell sewing kits and knitting stuff.
      I’m glad to hear about the hair dresser who is using bleach to sterilize her needles. I think that is to be commended.
      As a general guide, needles used for hair dressing do not usually draw blood. The re-usable hair needles can be washed with a combined detergent and bleach solution(follow instructions on the bottle).
      I personally have not experienced any needle stick injury from hair dressers so I guess this is not very common but I may be wrong….

  6. Hmm…as I read through this touchy story, I just wondered how exposed we may be while fixing our hair extensions. I think I need to start carrying my needle. Will appreciate a response on this Dr.

    1. Thanks Engee for raising this important angle which I guess many of our black sisters who use hair extensions may be wondering about.
      Its always good practice to ask the hair dresser to use your own needles if you have yours. If they decline, you could politely ask that they use new needles(and actually see them opening a new pack!).
      The risk of getting HIV from a needle injury is highest if the needle causes
      – a deep injury,
      – has visible blood on it.
      – if the needle has actually been in the vein or artery of a person with HIV(source person) before pricking you.
      – if the source person above is very sick with AIDS (like dies within 2 months).
      If in doubt, please seek medical advice!

      If you have a needle stick injury,
      – encourage the area to bleed.
      – wash with soap, under running water.
      -Do NOT SCRUB the area.
      I guess its more tricky if the affected area is on the scalp …….
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      1. This is a very touching story but unfortunately one that repeats itself often. Many of us are in denial. We believe we are too careful to ever be infected. We make sure we are not exposed to all the risk factors and therefore we are fine. The truth is it could befall anyone. We may be able to control all risk factors under our control, but what about the ones that is beyond our control. We may trust our partners but some human beings have dual personalities and can change, only God never changes. Being informed is the best weapon and exhibiting responsible behaviour, we hope!!

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