In this episode of #ArewaDiaries, we tell you the story of a beautiful woman (Malama Sa’adatu) who woke up to the frown of fate’s face on her. After narrowly escaping losing the ability to walk from an injury she sustained as a result of a ghastly motor accident, she was met with the news that changed her life forever. She was told by the doctors that she tested positive for HIV weeks after she was brought into the hospital after the accident.
This beautiful lady, a mother of 4 and a widow, took the news painfully but in good faith. There was nothing she could’ve done to remedy the situation but start treatment, pray, and hope. Coincidentally, she had been given 6 months’ notice to find another place and vacate the residence she and her children were occupying after the death of her husband since it was a staff quarter belonging to the establishment her husband worked for when he was alive and he wasn’t anymore.
She had spent 3 months in the hospital and that left her with only 3 months to look for another place. Her children had spent more than 90% of the saved capital she wanted to use to rent a temporary apartment for them to cover her hospital bills while she was in the hospital and the rest was barely enough for them to survive on. 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 a secret for all the time she was in hospital spread like wildfire. The secret she and her children protected with all their might now moved from one family member to the other. An old friend of the family accommodated her and her kids in a room and parlor he rented out to students for free and so they moved. Gradually but surely she lost one relative to the other to the fact that she had HIV – like just socializing with her would automatically transfer the virus from her body to theirs. She kept a beautiful though fake smile all the time, so much so that people who didn’t know her mistook her for a woman who had everything going for her – but the battles she fought within her were enormous and life draining, but boy was she strong!
This woman had 4 children, 3 boys, and a girl, whom she had gallantly raised alongside her late husband when he was alive. Her firstborn (Habib) soon graduated from the university leaving the second (Salima) and the third (Kamal) in their third and second year respectively, while Salim was in his final year in secondary school. Malama Sa’a – all alone and 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 fend for her children and see them through school.
When Habib returned home from Enugu state where he had done NYSC service with news that the establishment he served at had retained him, she was over her head with joy. Finally, their problems would be over now that her first son has gotten a job with which pay he could take care of all of them, she thought. At that time Salim had finished secondary school and had to forfeit the admission he got into the university because there wasn’t enough money to register him. To say that the whole family was happy about Habib’s appointment would be belittling the joy they felt.
Habib returned to the state he had served now as a software engineer for some company after being showered lots of prayers by his mother and siblings. After he left for Enugu, mal Sa’a still worked her head off to put food on the table and to cater for the other needs of her children but that too was soon cut short.
Mal Sa’adatu’s health took a very painful turn a year after Habib had left for Enugu; some tongues carried that she had not been taking her antiretroviral drugs the way she’s been asked to by her doctors, others carried that she hadn’t been taking them at all. She had to stop all the menial jobs she was doing to fight for her dear life – even though she thought it would be for a few weeks until she regained her strength and could work again – fate had something else in store for her.
Salima who was an already grown-up woman at that time, had, by some miracle, deducted that one careless contact with the woman who had brought her into the world and had so selfishly struggled to make her stay in it comfortable could get her infected and so she stayed away from her mother. She won’t go close to her not to talk of touch her or assist her in taking care of her needs. She separated the mother’s eating utensils from that of the rest of the family; she won’t even sit in the same room with her mother. She left home under the notion that she was going to go and try getting some money from her paternal uncles for the upkeep of the family – a visit that stretched so!
The air later carried news of her going to her uncle’s to be married off to some guy. Pain is no word to describe the emotional state mal Sa’a was in when that news reached her; she cried for days on end, she won’t eat the little she was given and won’t take her drugs – her pain was endless. There was no word from Habib.
Kamal who was as still as the gentlest of all her children seemed to be quiet when all that happened was happening had somehow managed to see himself through his last year in the university with a job he got at a cyber café near the campus. After graduation, he used the salary from that same job to take care of his mother and younger brother’s needs and still save some for other things.
A hundred naira at a time, he saved for and bought a wheelbarrow which he used to move things from one part of the market to the other for interested customers. He jumped from job to job to cater to his ailing mother and his younger brother; from paying Salim’s school fees to his mother’s medical needs. He bathed her, cleaned up after her whenever she passed her natural needs as she couldn’t hold herself anymore, and much more – she loved him so. She never missed an opportunity to talk about him to anyone that cared to listen, she prayed endlessly for him. There was still no word of or from Habib; soon she stopped worrying about him and Salima; “na bar ma Duniya su” she always said bitterly.
With the help of God and the help of her son Kamal and his younger brother Salim, their love and endless support, she got a little bit better; she could feed and bathe herself then, go to the toilet and do other little things herself – she never stopped praising and praying for her two children. Kamal got a job working as a secretary in some law firm and things became easier for them until it turned again. Mal Sa’adatu – the beautiful strong woman – took her last breathe 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 when members of the family started coming in all feigning hurt. They all wept for their sister, aunt, daughter like that was when she needed their love 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, maybe they thought the virus they had so wickedly resented her for would just disappear someday and then they could come back and be family again, maybe – just maybe – they were all pretending.
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. Your imaginations can regale you on how a calm and patient person who has been pushed beyond limit gets when angry.
Now since we’re not particularly 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? Do you think Malama Sa’adatu deserved the treatment she got from her relatives and even her two children even though they knew she didn’t get infected in an immoral way? Do you think Kamal did the right thing by stopping his elder brother and sister from entering their apartment to mourn their mother? If you could talk to Habib, Salima, Kamal, and Salim, what will you tell each one of them? This brings us to the end of this episode of #ArewaDiaries, I hope you have learned from it.
REMINDER: not everyone who is HIV positive is wayward or got it by indulging immorality and waywardness. 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, and not even HIV can make that any less so. God bless you as you raise your voices to say no to discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.