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Living Positively Without ART

                                                    

2012 World AIDS Day Stories

By Margaret Sepi-Munjin

Linda John, another young person living with HIV was diagnosed at the Port Moresby General Hospital in 2004. The 29 year old  woman from Abau in the Central Province was shocked when the news was broken to her at the Antenatal clinic when she was four months pregnant at the age of 21.

Linda has been living with the virus for 9 years now. She is not on treatment ,has 3 children(biological daughter and two adopted) has remarried and is living in the National Capital District. She works at the Heduru Clinic  at Port Moresby General Hospital as HIV Support Officer under a HIV/Health Project  implemented by the Igat Hope Incorporated, an Organisation for PLHIVs in PNG.

Linda’s main message to the people of Papua New Guinea and her peers is that being positive is not the end of the world for anyone. It is a situation you encounter and should learn to accept and live with the virus. She has come a long way and wants to help others  in overcoming their fears.

Linda reached an education level of Grade 9 but that did not deter her from pushing on and making a life on her own. Although, living with the virus and having a child to look after, Linda did not look back. She was happy that her child was born without the virus and was one of those first babies born to a HIV positive mother to live despite unavailability of ART at that time. That was one of the main reasons  for her coming out in public to declare her status.

Another reason she felt was important in her coming out publically and advocating was her youthfulness and attractiveness. She attracted a lot of young men who wanted to be her partner or just wanted a casual relationship. She tells them,she has the virus but most men do not take heed of that and still wants her because she looked healthy and well. Linda says, that the danger in the world of HIV because you can never tell who has the virus,HIV does not have a face and “I want to be that face to tell men in PNG that I can be attracted but I have the virus too, so be careful.” Said Linda.

One of the main challenges she faces every day is to watch her peers die because of hunger, stigma and discrimination. She say, that should not happen in a rich nation like PNG. We must look after each other in order to survive. She finds family and friends support as very important and urges PLHIVs to find that support and live positively in their communities.

When asked why she opted not to take ART? She  replied quietly that she had a mixed feeling as she is very  forgetful and sometimes can not remember to take simple drugs such as amoxicillin, how on earth would she remember to take ART on time every day; another fear is that, one day Global Fund and donors might cease purchasing ART and she has to buy it herself. Its unaffordable.

So how is Linda coping and is still looking very healthy? She revealed that she lives a very simple and healthy life and tries her best to avoid infections. She ensures her CD4  cell counts stays at the required level by eating healthy. She also revealed that she is not prepared to go on ART fearing that adherence maybe a problem and her body may become resistant to the drug.

Linda John is an advocate who is also very creative . She has a team of friends and relatives who make Red Ribbons , Earrings, Necklaces to sell and earn herself some money to live in the city .She believes in being independent and living an honest life.

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