HIV positive woman enjoying life after weathering storm in 21-year journeyWednesday, December 01, 2021
BY JOB NELSON
Jasmine* recalls greeting the news of her HIV positive diagnosis with skepticism.
“This can't happen to me. Mi a hot gal, a weh dis a guh?” she recounted.
Twenty-one years later, for Jasmine, the skepticism and denial have now given way to hope and a positive outlook on life as after going through one year of being severely ill, she has been able to trek through the other years fairly smoothly, albeit with minor bumps along the way.
It was, however, the persistence of a random woman and then the help of Regional Manager for Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), Nilfia Anderson that enabled her to overcome the challenges after being diagnosed with the disease at 25.
According to Jasmine, having dumped her steady partner whom she contracted the disease from, she met the woman, who immediately picked up that she was HIV positive because of the rashes on her skin, although Jasmine denied it when quizzed by the woman.
Still being delusional that “this caan happen to mi, mi a hot gal, a weh dis a guh” and having convinced herself and trying to influence others that the rashes were from allergies, the stranger woman insisted on getting her number and then constantly checking on her.
Jasmine said that it was the woman who picked her up at home on one of the days that she was severely ill and enabled her to see the doctor for the first time, by assisting her to a health clinic, where she was prescribed her first doses of HIV medications.
Having joined JASL, Jasmine said she stumbled through taking the battery of medications several times, but it was the support of Anderson that eventually convinced her to continuously apply the necessary doses on time.
“I started taking them for a while and I realised, I mean those days it was like 14 tablets a day, whole heap a tablet inna mi hand and I couldn't feel encouraged to take them, but then I decided that mi a guh tek dem and as soon as mi start look like one sexy girl again, mi stop tek dem and when I stopped taking them I got sick again,” she told OBSERVER ONLINE.
“I was going to Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and I met this lady (Anderson) there and she said to me 'just try the medication for a month and mek wi si how it guh' and she work with mi, she call mi night and day, and she seh 'please tek yuh medication, memba seh yuh a live fi di pickney dem' and she encouraged me.
“From that day I don't stop none at all, I just press forward and I can only stand and say, without the help of this woman I don't know what would have happened because other people used to be there for me, but I have never really sat down with anybody and say this is what I am going to do,” Jasmine stated.
According to Jasmine, only a few select family members know that she is HIV positive, including her four children - a boy who is the eldest and three girls. She said at the community level, the situation is very similar with only very few well-trusted individuals being told.
She said that her son took the news hard, as, at the time when he was told, HIV positive was similar to a death-sentence. Jasmine said his behaviour deteriorated and when faced with a counsellor, he disclosed that he will have to take on the mantle of being the man because his mother “soon die”.
Having her son tell her that he was going to run away, combined with life struggles of not having a job at the time and being unable to find a partner, thrust Jasmine into a deep depression to the point of contemplating suicide. She said the family custom of discussing the day's events and then praying before going to bed saved her from harming herself.
Jasmine said she sat on the bed one evening with all her medications in one hand and a glass of water in another and was about to take the tablets when her youngest daughter, who was about six at the time, reminded her that she had not prayed. She said the child started the Lord's Prayer and when it was completed, Jasmine said she could not go through with her mission.
The following day, she confided with Anderson who came up with a plan to take her out of her situation and this enabled her to get a job at a company, where she is still employed.
Jasmine has also overcome the challenges of finding a partner as she has been in a relationship for three years. She said her current partner is comfortable with her HIV status unlike other men she met in the past.
“I think he (partner) is doing really well because when I met him, we were having a conversation about HIV and he said, he knows about HIV because he does a lot of reading about it. So I said that's good. I don't know what's wrong with my personality but people are always drawn to my personality, so we became friends.
“He wanted to take me for lunch and when he took me for lunch he told me his intentions and I told him what my secret was and he said I am joking. I said no I am not joking and he said alright then, let's see how it goes and we are still seeing how it goes right now,” the bubbly Jasmine said.
According to Jasmine, her partner is the father of three boys and has expressed his desire for a girl. But with her being 46 years old, she said the discussion about another child between the two will have to be had soon before she reaches menopause.
She said that her two main motivators are her children and being able to now assist individuals who are HIV positive by telling her story and being able to encourage them through their respective journeys.
“Be strong. It is going to be hard because you are going to have to adjust so you have to just be strong and stay focused. Find somebody who you can relate to, somebody confidential, who you can tell your deepest secret and it stays with them and relate to them, this is what you are going through,” she said are words that she constantly instils in individuals who just find out they are HIV positive.
Meanwhile, Jasmine said her steady partner who she contracted the disease from died without disclosing to her how he got the disease. She said he failed to admit to her that he even had the disease.
*Name changed upon request