There are many challenges facing young women today. One major challenge for women in Eastern and Southern Africa is the lack of basic knowledge of and access to crucial sexual health education and services, including issues related to HIV and pregnancy. We recognize the need to empower young people, especially girls, in order to remove the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and pregnancies. One way to do this is through education.
Some young girls are blamed for their HIV infection and accused of being immoral. Others end up on the streets because they have nowhere to go. Nellie, an inspiring girl from Kenya knows what it feels like to be scared and alone in the face of adversity. Nellie shared her story, through a handwritten note, in hopes of helping other young people overcome similar challenges.
March 8 2015, marks International Women’s Day. A day that recognizes the adversity that many girls and women face around the world and the courage it takes to overcome. We truly admire Nellie’s strength in sharing her difficult story and are certain that she will leave a positive legacy, in her community and beyond. Thank you, Nellie.
Take a stand on #InternationalWomensDay and show your support for all the amazing women around the world!
A letter written by Nellie
“I’m very sorry to inform you that you are HIV positive, but on the upside, you are going to have a baby,” the doctor informed me. Tears welled up in my eyes. These were tears of deep bitterness and they stung my eyes. That monster, that monster infected me. He made my whole life crash right before my eyes. I was now having his baby, a constant reminder of that dreadful night that he took my innocence without my consent. “Thank you” I was able to utter as I walked out of the doctor’s office.
“I’m very sorry to inform you that you are HIV positive, but on the upside, you are going to have a baby,” the doctor informed me.
I was only seventeen, a student, pregnant and to top it all off HIV positive. Where would I start? How long would I live? Would I even have the baby? These questions crossed my mind as I walked in the streets very paranoid; in my mind everyone knew my status. I could hear them whisper about it as I walked past. I tried fighting back my tears but I wasn’t able to as they slowly started to trickle down my cheeks.
I finally returned home “what’s going on,” my mother asked. Without even uttering a word I started to sob uncontrollably. “Mum… I’m pregnant… and HIV positive.” She just looked blankly at me and said, “Where did I go wrong with you? Did I raise you like this? Imagine what people will say about our family.” Was this really happening? Wasn’t she even going to ask how it happened? I was honestly all alone.
Soon word spread and everywhere I walked I could see people move away from me and hear whispers echoing. “There is that girl with the disease,” “She is so loose of morals,” “Surely she was not raised in the right family.” All I could think was “If they only knew.”
I saw my long lost friend Emily. A smile curved on my face as I made my way towards her. “No!” she protested. “Don’t touch me! I don’t want to get the virus!” she exclaimed as she walked away. Shock overcame me and I began to question whether I was a monster that should be avoided.
Shock overcame me and I began to question whether I was a monster that should be avoided.
The baby was another issue. I thought of abortion more than once but that would just add guilt to my already miserable life. I decided to keep the baby, even though it would remind me of the horrible night. It was never the baby’s fault.
All my days have a challenge. Stigmatization, one illness after the next, the huge amount of drugs I have to take each day, and worst of all the traumatization. I can’t even close my eyes without flashes of that heinous act being done to me, repeatedly crossing my mind. It’s not my choice to be pregnant or HIV positive. Everyone assumes it’s because of my immorality. But I made a choice to not die as ‘that girl who had the virus’ but live as ‘the girl who made a change,’ ‘the girl who lived her life and is an inspiration to many victims.’
I promise I will leave a legacy, a change, for one, I will accept my status and work towards helping victims with HIV live a positive life.
Special thanks to Nellie and LVCT Health.