Voices: Living Positively
July 2005—This is the first in a series of personal stories submitted by men and women across Asia who are living with HIV/AIDS. In her own words, this article tells the story of Kiren, a young Malaysian woman, and her struggle with HIV.
I am a 31-year old woman and I’ve been HIV positive for eight years. I was married at 19 and knew little about safe sex (or even sex!) except what I’d learned in school.
In 1995, my husband was diagnosed with HIV. I got tested, too, but my result was negative.
My parents asked me to divorce him since we didn’t have any children and I was negative. But the professor at the hospital told me that I was still in the window period and that sooner or later I’d test positive. I decided that I wanted to take care of my husband because I didn’t have the heart to leave him. We were in and out of hospital and his condition got worse. In 1996 he developed TB.
In January 1997, I was diagnosed HIV positive. I didn’t tell my family or his about my status because my husband was very ill by that time. He died in March 1997. Later, when I informed my in-laws about my status, they accused me of causing their son’s death. I explained to them as much as I knew about HIV/ AIDS but they would not listen. I became very depressed. Within six months I could see that my health was getting worse and I felt like listening to them was killing me faster that the virus. So in September 1997 I moved in with my parents.
My family was very supportive and they actually knew more than me about HIV/AIDS. My mom cooked healthy food for me every day until I was feeling so much better. I gained some weight. I started working—I was trying my best to be somebody in life and to earn as much as I could.
But eventually I fell ill. I had to start treatment, which was very costly. Luckily, my husband had been a government employee, so I was entitled to his health care coverage. I was scared to make claims at first as I wasn’t sure whether they would reimburse me for my AIDS medicines. But, with the help of my doctors, they did. I have been on treatment for the last two years and I know that I have to take ARV drugs for as long as I live.
Now I am feeling so much healthier and happier and I try to live life to the fullest. All my relatives and close friends know about my status and they don’t mind because they know how this virus is transmitted. Not all of us can get family support the way I did, but there is always someone who is willing to listen and help. Nowadays I have a lot of HIV-positive friends I can talk with and get advice from. They understand me better than anyone because they are going through the same thing I am.
So what if I am HIV positive? At the end of the day, I am a regular person and I live my life positively.