HIV-related fear has led society to deny the presence of this deadly virus that sits at our doorstep. This, despite the collective risk we face with the silent spread of this killer.
Many believe this denial comes from a general lack of knowledge despite the availability of information.
Bahamians, young and old, are slowly dying.
The following are the stories of people who are now living or lived at the All Saints Camp at some point in their lives and denied that they were infected with the disease.
Dawn Darling is living with the HIV virus and has been for nine years. She is lives at the All Saints Camp. Not only has the disease attacked her body, but it is attacking her mind. She is slowly losing the ability to function normally.
I used to fight a lot, I never wanted to listen to anybody or anything like that, but things change, now I don’t get into trouble.
I was 14 when I contracted HIV, but I moved into the All Saints Camp only a couple of months ago.
I went to the doctor for a regular checkup and he told me I had it. My mummy was crying and beating me and stuff because she was scared and my sister was scorning me. I dropped out of school because I couldn’t keep a 1.0 grade point average. Things have changed now.
I have a daughter and my sister comes here to see me once in a while. When she comes she brings my daughter, mostly on holidays and birthdays. I came here because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. None of my family wanted me living with them and people used to scorn me and make fun of me and stuff.
Living here I appreciate the small things in life that everybody else takes for granted. I have everything I need here: lotion, clothes, soap, a television and a radio.
My daughter is three and she isn’t sick. She lives with my sister because I can’t afford to take care of it. Her father has it but he didn’t get it from me; he got it from another girl.
I don’t work outside the camp. I work in the office, clean the yard, work in the kitchen and help out wherever else I am needed… I need things to do but everything is so hard. I don’t get sick often but I have headaches sometimes. The only medication I take is for my headaches.
Some people treat me bad and some people treat me good. People who I knew before don’t check for me anymore, they talk about me but other than that everyone here is treating me good.
I miss going out. When I go out people still scorn me but I don’t check. I miss going to church and to the mall and stuff, but people would laugh at me and scorn me. I don’t know why they do this.
I don’t think I am any different from anybody else. It makes me sad, but I don’t cry no more. I don’t check. I am happy now.
Young people need to protect themselves. I protect myself when I have sex because I don’t want to get any sicker and I don’t want anybody else to get sick. If someone finds out that they have AIDS or HIV, I would tell them to pray because God will help his people through everything.”
Jestina Clarke stayed at the All Saints Camp only for a few months. This was so she could learn to deal with having HIV. She caught the virus from a man whom she was dating. He was married but she was not aware of that until the end of their relationship. She was in denial for a very long time afterwards.
“He didn’t know he had it until I told him and then he found out his wife had it also.
Even though I knew I had it, I believed that if I didn’t put any energy into thinking about it, it would never get worse. I felt it wasn’t fair that I had HIV, so I just pretended that I didn’t, for as long as I could. And when I could no longer pretend; I felt like I might just as well be dead. Only my family know that I am sick. I didn’t like people feeling sorry for me because of my illness but I spent more time feeling sorry for myself than anyone else had.
I get depressed about the fact that I don’t have anyone to go out with on Saturday night. I tell myself that I’m just not attractive anymore because of the HIV. The truth is that no one wants to go out with a ‘wet blanket,’ no matter how they look. I’m not that ugly, it’s just easier to feel sorry for myself than to get off my butt and be assertive at a club or something.
Or I’ll get mad at my mom or my friends or my therapist because they point out something I don’t want to hear. Don’t they realize I have AIDS? How can they be so cruel? Poor, poor, pitiful me.
A few weeks of feeling sorry for myself passed so I decided to stay at The All Saints Camp. I wanted to know what would become of me if there wasn’t anywhere else for me to go? After spending time at the camp I began to accept that I was sick. My being sick made others feel sorry for me, so when I went out of my way to do something for someone, I felt I was being an especially worthy person. And sometimes I was. But most of the time I was just collecting brownie points and gold stars for my good deeds. If I sacrificed enough, I was bound to go to heaven, after all.
There are people out there who are not being careful while having sex. Before you engage in any form of sexual activity, make sure you get an AIDS test. Then always protect yourself when having sex.
People with serious illnesses such as strokes, heart disease or cancer usually feel that they can count on the support of their friends, family members and church members. But for many people living with HIV/AIDS this is not the case, they are often unable to tell others of their situation.
Even though they may tell their family members, the isolation often continues because the family is also fearful of how the community will judge them. The easy way out is denial.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Tatiana Kuznetsova, D.M.D.