Baby gives me hope

It was hard enough being HIV-positive and Asian when I discovered I
was pregnant last year. What shame this would be to my family back
home in Kenya. It wasn’t difficult to decide whether I was going to
keep the baby. I knew I had to; it was the best news I had had in a
long time.

I started taking medication to prevent my baby being infected with
HIV, decided I would have a caesarean and I would not breastfeed.
Now my baby girl is six months old and she has had two blood tests
that show she does not have my antibodies. Her final test will be
when she is 18 months.

Although I was not on HIV medication before I became pregnant, now
I am and I take it daily. It is difficult to remember to take it
when all my time is spent looking after my daughter but I know I
have to be healthy and keep well because her little life depends on
me. She has only me and I must do my best to look after and provide
for her.

When I was pregnant my baby’s father never supported me and he
doesn’t support me now. It took me a long time but I had to get out
of the relationship because he was violent and abusive. My
self-confidence was at an all-time low when I was with him. The
shame of it is that it took me having the baby without him to make
me realise I would not let him do to my baby what he did to me. I
realise that my being HIV-positive does not prevent me having
relationships with men when it hasn’t stopped me having a healthy
and beautiful baby girl.

I feel I can be successful in doing anything I want as long as I
believe in myself. The only time I get a bit down is when I don’t
get a good response from my social worker or counsellor. I do need
to feel that there are people there to help me when I need it. A
little compassion from them can go a long way for someone like me
who has been vulnerable and, at times, distressed.

Nearly four years ago I ran away from the oppression from my home
country and family. In Kenya I wasn’t able to do half the things I
can do here in the UK. I can express myself, talk freely about my
status and help others in the same situation. I have co-founded an
ethnic minority support group called Monsoon, where other
HIV-positive women can feel free to be themselves and open their
hearts without being judged.

The best thing for me now is my baby girl. The support I get from
friends and organisations has been invaluable. Although my
ex-boyfriend was born here he still has a problem talking about his
HIV status and used to tell me I should not discuss it either. If I
wanted that sort of denial I would have stayed in Kenya where HIV
is still taboo. Yes, I am single, HIV-positive, Asian and a proud
mum. I believe that one day I will meet someone who will love me
and my baby unconditionally.

Salima Jivani is HIV-positive and a single parent

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