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“Please what’s today’s date?” Nkoli asked the man standing next to her at the counter. The two-day public holiday that followed the weekend had messed up her mental calendar.
“23rd,” he said. “23rd March.”
At that instant,Nkoli remembered that exact day three years ago. She remembered it so well as what was supposed to be a harmless participation turned out to become a major life discovery.
She had attendedan Outreach and among other things,the programme offered free medical counselling and tests. She first checked-in with the eye-care team as her eye had been giving her some discomfort. Onward she went to the HIV testing tent. She aced all the questions thrown at her on her knowledge of HIV/AIDS.
“I just came for the test, I know all these” she said. The middle aged man smiled. “It’s good you know,” he said. It was easy and fast, just a prick on her index finger and some mixing he did.
She heard people say their heart beat loudly while they awaited their result. But she believed she had nothing to fear.
Indeed, she indulged in some miscellaneous activities. Ejike was her campus boyfriend and she could firmly say “he was not that type of person.” Anthony was “smooth” but he always insisted on using protection. He used to say it was for “peace of mind.” It happened just once with Anayo. Can one even get infected at just one exposure? So she remained calm.
A few minutes passed and the medic said they would check the result together. He explained that a single-line meant negative and a double was positive.
Side-by- side they stood as she saw the double line that redefined her life.
“Oh,no. It can’t be.” She blurted.
“Well, it may not be,” he assured. “Even if it is so, you said it yourself some minutes ago,there’s treatment now, so it’s not the end of the world”
“Are you sure the kit is not expired?”
“Calm down, Miss” he said with a warm smile. “You will undergo another test,this time in a lab of a hospital. That one will tell.”
“Oh,okay.” That seemed to have calmed Nkoli’s nerves that had began to edge. He scribbled down something on a paper and handed to her.
The test at the hospital was the same.
It has been three years and nothing has changed. From all she had read,nothing would have changed, yet, whether or not she took the medication. But it would not stay so forever, unless she took the medication. That was why she did,still does and will continue to do.
Just like her father, everyday she swallows her medication. Just that her father took his to keep his sugar level at bay. Also, she was not as conspicuous as him about it. Unlike her father, no one reminds her of it. But she takes a nudge from his compliance.
It’s all to keep alive, whatever the ailment may be.
Her results read negative now. It has been so for almost two years now. Nurse Racheal explained that it’s not that the virus has left her body,but it’s that it has become suppressed. Too suppressed to appear in test results. Too suppressed to be passed unto another.
She was honest about it to Okechukwu but he moved on. She understood. Gabriel too. Steven knew but he was still there. She doesn’t know how long he’d be.
In days she remembers, she stares herself in the mirror, full of flesh, young and healthy, with no resemblance of all she feared living with HIV would be. She looked no different from Abigail her sister,Ngozi in her office or Buchi in the next flat. Nor the young lady at the counter processing her teller.
So they cannot tell she lives with HIV,neither can she tell of them.
“Thank you for banking with us,” the security guard at the door said.
“Thank you,” she said as she extended her palm to him in a handshake, leaving a naira note in his.
“Have a nice day,” she greeted as the man’s face brightened up,more alive than the perfunctory courteous smile he put on earlier.
Nkoli rejoined the street, walking tall,happy and proud. In full knowledge of her status and at rest with it. A thing oblivious to passers-by. A thing not their business and concern.
They say one thing must kill a man, with Nkoli’s effort, one of it, for her, wouldn’t be AIDS.
#WorldHIV/AIDSDay#Tags: Ezinne Arua, Hiv/aids, World hiv/aids week