Despite the criticism and discrimination about her health status at work and community, 47 year old Elizabeth Shinima has managed break through negative thoughts of being infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to living a normal and positive life.
It was a normal sunny day as she sit huddled in a corner in her house in Ruacana, deep in thought trying to figure out what kind of miracle could change her status from being positive to negative, unfortunately no miracle could change the fact that she found out that she is HIV positive.
As she walked back home crying wondering what she has ever done wrong, suicide thoughts crippled in and she felt like giving up on everything that she have ever worked hard for.
“I remember finding out about my status in 2001 and thought to myself that my life is over, until I reached home where I set outside for an hour thinking and at that very first moment I realised that it was not the end of the world, I can actually live a normal life,” she says.
Shinima who is a mother of three adds that, “Suicidal thought only got to me because I was not well informed of the possibilities of having a normal life again, and I did not get proper counselling at that time.”
Although Shinima’s only solution was giving up on life and ending her life, she has proven that living with the disease is part of life and ending her life would not do any justice but rather creates another problem.
Shinima who is currently employed for almost 15 years at the Namibian Defend Force (NDF) Tells Prime Focus Magazine that, “I have been employed at NDF for almost 15 years now and my colleagues that know my status have learned to except me the way I am although at the beginning people used to look at me in a weird way and gossiping about me behind my back which sometimes used to get to me but today I don’t let anything affect me.”
Through her experience, Shinima now dedicates her free time to giving counselling on Tuberculosis related issues as well as talking to people that are also infected.
“We don’t have a New start centre in Ruacana therefore I prefer getting people together and then we talk about HIV and AIDS or TB because most people do not like going to the clinic because it is always full of people,” Shinima says.
Shinima who only started her treatment in 2008, admits that when she started her treatment ,she started with the four tablets per day dosage, were she takes two in the morning while the other two at night, however, today she only takes one in the morning and the one at night.
Although she is still on the two tablet treatment she stresses that, “I am currently taking two tablets per day but I also want to start using the one tablet per day also but every time I go get my medication I am always told that I should wait for the old stock to finish then I can move to the single pill”.
Shinima who also explains that she had never experienced side effects with the antiretroviral drug says that, “people always complain about side effects but I thank God for never experiencing any side effects.”
She further retaliates that medications always have side effects, however that should not be a reason for not taking medications regularly.
“There is no one else who can take care of you if It is not yourself, if you are a person who forgets a lot, I would encourage you to always put an alarm on your phone that reminds you when to take the medications. In today’s life, you will find people that would rather throw their pills under the bed pretending that they have taken them, but I believe at the end of the day it is your life not the person you are trying to tricks life,” she says.
She adds that, “ if you want to live a normal life be on time with your medications and don’t be shy to go take your medication because carrying about what people might think and say is a discouragement if not taken as a motivation.”
Although there are still people who are under the first ARV treatment in the country, Minister of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) Bernard Haufiku collaborated on Shinima’s comment encouraging local clinics to make sure that patients are moved to the single pill.
The single pill which consist of a fixed-dose combination (FDC) antiretroviral (ARVs) that was said to improve adherence and simplify the routine to avoid or reduce prescribing errors and enable the introduction of public care models has been around for many years now but patients only started getting on board in 2003.
“Previously, there was no one on antiretroviral treatment in 2002 in public hospitals however, today we see a slight improvement in public hospitals. More than 136 000 people are now on antiretroviral treatment in state hospitals, excluding private hospitals,” Haufiku says.
He also adds that, “not only has people grown confidence in getting treatment but the newly introduced single pill has also cut out issues such as prescribing errors and it enabled the introduction of public care models.”
Haufiku further explains that, the single pill has really brought a lot of changes and today, a lot of people are looking healthy and living a normal life.
“We have also carried out campaigns concerning the single dosage throughout the country and have given training to pharmacist and to health workers who are trained in the initiation and managing ARVs with the aim of improving their relationships with patients since it is easier to explain the drug to them and manage them.” He says.