In November 2017, I was diagnosed with HIV. When I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t believe that I was positive. My mind went blank. All I could think of was that I was going to die and that it was the end of my life. From what I knew then of HIV, it was an infectious diseases and scientists have not found the cure for this illness. I didn’t know about the survival rate of HIV-positive persons.
I decided to go for treatment because do I have even a choice? If I don’t undergo treatment, my health will get worse and I don’t want to be in tremendous pain anymore. My counsellor at DSC Clinic was the one who told me that I’ve got to go for treatment even though there’s no cure yet. They said that there’s still hope, I can even have my own family if my viral load is undetectable. My doctor also gave me encouragement not to miss my medication.
The first person I told about my diagnosis was my husband. When I started having the symptoms of HIV, I told him that I was worried that I was always falling sick easily and frequently and had to go for a thorough check-up. But he told me that I shouldn’t worry because it just a normal flu and fever. I believed him, but then my condition worsened.
I was hospitalised for one month after I was diagnosed. The consultant who was in charge of my case at that point of time was the one who informed me of my HIV status to my sister-in-law. When they got to know, my dad and brother looked so worried and felt pity for me. My other family members reminded me to take my medication. I guess they must be thinking of why I have to go through such pain. But I don’t need their sympathy, I just need their understanding. I don’t want other people to judge me for my condition. I don’t want them to blame whoever who gave this illness to me. It will just make me sadder. But so far, they have tried to be mindful when they are with me.
When I found out I was positive, I was not in the right mind. There was a lot of things happening in my life at that moment. I found out that my husband was having an affair while I was so sick at home. I was worried about my future that had been destroyed. I had thoughts of ending my life.
I felt constantly alone. It’s because I’m the only one who went through all this pain. Others might see the pain but they can’t understand how I feel to have this illness all my life, to remember to take my medication every night without fail, just to keep me alive.
But when I think back, I realised that I still have people who love me and that makes me more motivated to continue with my life. My sister-in-law and my godsister are my pillars of strength.
My first pillar of strength is myself. No matter how hard life is, I’ve got to be strong to continue my life for my loved ones. I believe God give me this illness for a reason. I have accepted my fate. I must think about others who I care about. I don’t want them to get my illness. I have to be responsible about my illness.
Being in this society that still has misconceptions about HIV, I can’t talk openly about my status to anyone. I try not to talk about it. At work, it’s physically tiring for me as I work as service crew. I try to push myself slowly and think that I’m a normal person. But I can’t take things lightly when I have cuts or open wounds. It might be a danger to other people who are not aware of my health condition. I try to be socially aware of my surroundings.
I used to keep quiet when people talk about HIV with their misunderstandings as I think I don’t have the power to do anything. But I want our society, especially my Muslim community, to learn and understand more about HIV. That’s why I decided to share my story.
We need to educate and have more awareness campaigns regarding HIV in Singapore. We should also have charity for HIV+ persons who need support. We always hear about charity or donation drive to help the cancer patients, kidney failure patients and heart disease patients, which is great and important, but what about people living with HIV? Are we going to be bogged down by our expensive medication and frequent medical check-ups? Are we not worthy of community support too?
Before I was diagnosed with HIV, even I had misconceptions about the illness because there’s not much awareness about it. And this is still the case when people keep asking me questions like: Can the virus be spread easily through saliva? How long can we live? Can people living with HIV socialise openly with other people?
I am sick and tired of answering the same questions over and over again. I am not here to educate you. We are living in a time where all the information you need is at your fingertips. Please inform yourself of HIV and don’t spread fake news.
For employers, especially in the F&B sector, hospitality and customer service sector, they should not discriminate against people living with HIV. For these sectors in particular, we must go through a health check-up before being accepted and it is very demoralising and hurts our self-esteem and self-confidence when we are rejected from jobs and being discriminated just because of our health status. Employers must educate themselves on HIV and not just easily believe myths and misconceptions. Employers must understand and regard people living with HIV as normal human beings that also have feelings.
Last year, the national HIV registry was leaked. I hope this doesn’t happen again and hope that the government will tighten its privacy securely in the future. This leak of sensitive information should never happen again.
Currently, I am hopeful because my health is better. My doctor said my condition has improved. I only have to go for my check-up every six months compared to when I was first diagnosed which was every 3 months. I fall sick lesser.
I am slowly able to accept the reality that I have this illness. I have stopped blaming the person who gave me this illness. I’m trying to live my life like a normal person even though it’s hard as the medication is a constant reminder that I am sick.
Now that we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic I’m not sure how COVID-19 will affect an HIV positive person like me, but I’m feeling okay. The other day, the nurse called me up to postpone my next appointment for my blood test, maybe so that our healthcare system can focus on fighting the virus. It’s okay, I’m willing to do my part to help. I still have enough supply of my medications for a few more months so I’m all set and hopeful for a brighter and joyful future.
Please visit the resources below for more information on HIV:
Hannah enjoys reading, writing and travelling. She is also an aspiring writer.
Illustration by Ishibashi Chiharu