This is the story of Malama Sa’adatu, a beautiful woman who woke up to the frowned face of fate on her.
She had narrowly escaped the inability to walk due to an injury sustained during a ghastly motor accident, after which she received the news that changed her life forever. Sadly, the doctor told her she has tested HIV positive, weeks after she was brought into the hospital after the accident. This beautiful woman, being a mother of four and a widow, took the news painfully, but in good faith—there was nothing she could’ve done to remedy the situation but to start treatment, pray and hope.
Coincidentally, she had been given six months notice to find another apartment and vacate the residence she and her children were occupying, since her husband was dead. It was a staff quarters belonging to the establishment her husband had worked for while he was still alive.
Unfortunately, she had spent three months in the hospital and was left with only three more months. Whereas, her children had already spent over 90% of the savings for her treatments, although she intended to use it to rent a temporary apartment. The money left was barely enough for their survival.
Furthermore, every relative she went to, feigned pity and gave little or no money because the “economy is bad”. Life took a total roundabout on her. Soon, news of her HIV status which she had successfully kept as a secret throughout her stay in the hospital spread like wildfire. This was a secret she and her children protected with their might, it now moved from one family member to another.
Luckily, an old family friend accommodated her and her kids in an apartment, which he usually rented out to students for free, so they moved in. Gradually, she lost contact with her relatives, from one person to another due to the fact she was tested HIV positive—as though socializing with her would automatically transfer the virus into their bodies.
Subsequently, she wore a beautiful smile all the time although it was faked. It was so real that people who didn’t know her mistook her for a woman who had everything moving smoothly for her. But, the battles she fought within were enormous and life draining, but boy, she was strong!
This woman had four children, three boys, and a girl. Whom she had gallantly raised alongside her late husband while he was still alive. Fortunately, her firstborn, Habib will soon graduate from the university. Leaving the second, Salima and the third, Kamal in their third and second year respectively in the university—while the last, Salim is in his final class in secondary school.
Malama Sa’adatu all alone, with no husband to help her, did all she could for her children. She did all sorts of jobs, from cleaning houses and scrubbing toilets, to running a small kiosk in the market to be able to fend for her children and see them through school.
Subsequently, Habib returned from Kano state where he had done his NYSC service, with the news that the establishment he served with had retained him—She was overwhelmed with joy. Finally, their problems will be over, now that her first child has gotten a job with a befitting pay enough to cater for them all. However, at that time Salim had finished secondary school and had to forfeit his admission into the university because there wasn’t enough money to register. Indeed, happiness was an understatement to the joy the entire family felt about Habib’s appointment.
Thereafter, Habib was showered with lots of prayers by his mother and siblings. Afterwhich, he returned to Kano, as a software engineer in the company where he had served. Preceding his departure, Mallama Sa’adatu still worked extremely hard to put food on the table and to cater for her children, but that was soon cut short.
Unfortunately, Mallama Sa’adatu health took a painful turn a year after Habib left for Kano; some people said she had not been taking her antiretroviral drugs the way the doctor prescribed, while others said she had not been taking them at all. Hence, she had to stop all the menial jobs she was doing to fight for her dear life, although she thought it was for a few weeks until she regained her strength— fate had something else in store for her.
At that time, Salima, the second-born and only daughter of Mallama Sa’adatu was already a grown-up woman. Suddenly, started behaving as though she was under a spell and deduced an ideology; that a careless contact with the woman who gave birth to her and had selflessly struggled to give her a comfortable life, she will get infected with the virus. Hence, she stayed away from her mother. She wouldn’t go close to her, not to mention, touching or assisting her with her needs.
Furthermore, she separated her mother’s eating utensils from the rest of the family and wouldn’t sit in the same room with her mother. Hence, she left home under the notion that she was going to get some money from her paternal uncle’s for the family upkeep—a visit that stretched long! Until news came that her visit to her uncle’s place was to get married off to a man. Pain wasn’t enough to describe the emotional state Malama Sa’adatu found herself in upon hearing the news. She cried for days refusing to be consoled, neither would she eat the little she was given or take her drugs — her pain was endless!
There was no word from Habib. However, Kamal the third born was the gentlest among her children and seemed to be quiet about the happenings. But, somehow managed to see himself through his final year in the university, with the aid of the job he got at a cyber cafe near his campus. Upon graduation, he used the salary from that job to take care of his mother and younger brother’s needs and still saved some for other things.
Interestingly, he saved a hundred naira at a time and was able to buy a wheelbarrow which he used to move things from one part of the market to another for interested customers. He moved from one job to another to cater for his ailing mother and his younger brother; from paying Salim’s school fees to his mother’s medical needs. In addition, he bathed her, cleaned her up whenever she passed her natural needs, as she couldn’t hold herself anymore, and many more.
Hence, Malama Sa’adatu loved him so much. She never missed an opportunity to talk about him to anyone who cared to listen and prayed endlessly for him. Subsequently, there was still no news of or from Habib, soon she stopped worrying about him and Salima; “na bar ma duniya su” she always said bitterly.
Fortunately, with the help of God and the love and endless support of her son Kamal and his younger brother Salim, she got a little bit better. Gradually, she could feed, bathe herself, use the toilet, and do little things by herself—she never stopped praising and praying for her two children. Furthermore, Kamal got a job as a secretary in a law firm and things became easier for them until it turned again.
Sadly, Mallama Sa’adatu, a beautiful, strong woman, took her last breath a few weeks later; she went to bed after praying for her children and giving so much beneficial advice and she just didn’t wake up. Kamal and Salim were bereaved and even more. So, members of the family started coming in all feigning hurt. They all wept for their sister, aunt, daughter as though that was when she needed their love the most.
Yes, they wept! I’m guessing they all wept out of regret; maybe they thought she would still be around long enough for them to make things right and make amends or maybe they thought the virus they had so resented her for would just disappear someday and then they could come back and be family again, maybe, just maybe—they were all pretending.
However, Kamal could hardly bear the show his relatives were displaying but didn’t make a move to show how irritated he was until Habib and Salima showed up all covered in shame and regret— I won’t go into details of how Kamal made sure they didn’t walk through the front door into their apartment but he made sure they didn’t. Perhaps, your imaginations can regale you on how a calm and patient person who has been pushed beyond the limit gets dangerous when angry.
Now, since we’re talking about discrimination and stigmatization against people living with HIV, I want you all to ponder; is it proper for a person to be judged by what does and doesn’t run in their bloodstream? Is HIV or any other disease a strong enough force to break family ties?
This brings us to the end of this story, I hope you have learned from it.
Not everyone who is HIV positive is wayward or got it by indulging in immorality or waywardness. Also, while HIV runs in the bloodstream and may deteriorate the body, it never affects the substance of a person— what defines them, which is the heart. If the heart is good and beautiful, nothing, not even HIV can make that any less. God bless you as you raise your voices to say no to discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.