'I was depressed and suicidal' - woman wrongly diagnosed as HIV-positive

2017-12-01 15:57
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Johannesburg – After being wrongly diagnosed with HIV, a mother of two says her difficult journey to acceptance has given her a greater understanding of the disease and how it affects all of society.

"The only way to manage is through acceptance. This experience still makes me very emotional. People still have the assumption that only certain people still get HIV and there are so many people who are still ignorant.

"Everyone needs to be informed. It is either you are infected or affected by the disease. You either deal with it yourself or help the other people around you," said the Gauteng woman who wishes to remain anonymous.

ALSO READ: 'I will leave my partner if he is HIV positive'

But the 31-year-old, who was wrongly diagnosed in 2011 and found out she was HIV-negative in 2014, wasn't always this optimistic about facing HIV.

She became suicidal after she was told that she was HIV-positive, she told News24. During an interview on Thursday she smiled at times as she detailed how her life changed after the diagnosis that left her devastated and destroyed her marriage.

She was pregnant with her second child when she and her husband decided to get tested for HIV at the end of 2011.

'I lost my husband'

Her results came back negative, however a nurse recommended that she take her blood to a laboratory for another test.

When the results came back, she was told that she was HIV-positive. She was 26 years old at the time.

"I cried so hard and I did not care who was watching me. I was afraid and I never went back to work. I was depressed and suicidal."

ALSO READ: 'HIV doesn’t kill – stigma does'

The woman said the diagnosis also led to the end of her marriage.

"I even lost my husband who was questioning how I contracted the virus. I didn't have the answers," she told News24 with her hands covering her face.

The woman said she lived on ARVs for two years while her son was on medication for six weeks after he was born.

"Those pills made me sick, at times I wouldn't cope and I would just decide not to take them. My life had changed and it was hard to accept my situation."

'Why me?'

She said she drew strength from her family who offered her support. Her only fear was that she would not live to see her 11-year-old daughter reach matric.

"I did not know much but all I could think and pray for was that I wanted to live to see my daughter get to matric," she said.

"I would fall asleep googling the lifespan of a 26-year-old living with HIV," she said.

It took her about seven months to accept her status.

"Emotionally it was traumatic. I asked myself 'why me?' I was very suicidal but I thought about my kids. Whenever my son was not well, I would blame the HIV.

"I couldn't plan for my future and I cancelled my policies," she said.

Undetectable viral load

However, in 2014 she learnt that she was HIV-negative after she had gone for her regular six-month check with a different doctor.

She had previously been told by another doctor that her viral load was undetectable and that her CD4 count was over 800. She was advised to stop taking her medication and only resume when she needed to.

She said after she stopped taking the medication she had the flu for two weeks. However, to her surprise, the doctor was puzzled and requested her previous HIV test results.

ALSO READ: Single-pill HIV treatment to save SA R11bn – health ministry

"He was shocked that I was not taking my medication. He said the lab might have made a mistake but he didn't want to raise my hopes."

The doctor conducted another test and the results came back negative.

She tested at three different facilities to confirm the results.

"I was so relieved," she said.

'You don't have to die'

The 31-year-old said she had learnt a lot about the virus during the time that she was living as a person with HIV.

"When you are HIV-positive – you don't have to die of it, you will die with it if you are taking care of yourself and taking your medications correctly."

HIV expert Dr Sindi van Zyl told News24 that in her career she had come across five cases of individuals who were wrongly diagnosed.

"It is not meant to happen. We always confirm a positive HIV test with another test. But sometimes procedure is not followed," Van Zyl said.

She added that in the spirit of World Aids Day on Friday it was important for one to know their status in order to get help.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  health  |  world aids day

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