Jecinta lives in Kenya and she is about 40 years old. In 1998, Jecinta became very sick and was hospitalized several times for malaria and TB. She tried many treatments but nothing seemed to work — she wasn’t getting any better. Finally, Jecinta’s sister-in-law told her she should be tested for HIV because that is what Jecinta’s husband had died from six years earlier.
Jecinta was shocked: She had always thought that her husband died of liver cancer. Not only did Jecinta’s in-laws hide her husband’s HIV status from her for all those years, but they also kicked her and her two children out of their house after her husband’s death.
Jecinta was devastated by this news but she decided to be tested for HIV — and soon learned her status was positive. “I was so stressed and confused when I learned I had HIV,” Jecinta said. “I thought of killing myself. I didn’t go out of the house and I refused to go for counseling. I did not want to tell anyone and I suffered alone.” But her health continued to worsen and Jecinta decided she had to accept her status and get treatment, for the sake of her children.
Jecinta traveled to a clinic at Embu Provincial Hospital, which is supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. She took a CD4 test, which showed that she was very sick from HIV and needed treatment. She began taking antiretroviral drugs, joined a support group for people living with HIV, and finally told her children about her HIV status.
“They were scared, and kids began taunting them and saying they had an awful mother,” Jecinta said. Jecinta had her children tested for HIV and fortunately, they are both negative. She told them to ignore the other kids and eventually the taunting stopped.
Jecinta began disclosing her status to other people in her village, and this was very hard. But soon other women began approaching her privately and asking her questions. “I became the one everyone comes to,” said Jecinta. “I tell them to be tested and to stay alive.”