"Over the years, my needs came before my health. Risk of getting sexually related infections never came to my mind. I could sleep with whoever offered to pay my rent, buy food, meet other bills and ensure my beauty was maintained." Eve said.
"I could sleep with any man irrespective of his physical outfit or age, what mattered to me was how much he could cover. The amount he could give decided how much his demands were honoured. Using protection was not my option but his wish; to be sincere. I didn't know much about condoms apart from the little information I saw or heard from adverts," she said.
I must say I was surprised to hear that she knew nothing about condoms and that deciding to use them was not her decision but that of whoever she was going to bed with. This was contrary to what is common nowadays where people with multiple sex partners, especially women, opt for protected sex.
"During the time, I feared getting pregnant more than contracting STIs. I used to frequent pharmacies, especially when I felt my days were not 'safe', only to get contraceptive pills. During those days, HIV was only associated with prostitutes in the streets of big towns such as Nairobi; this was the notion I used to console myself with. The only thing I could ignorantly say was 'to hell with the money' which definitely dragged me to hell. I didn't bother about my tomorrow since all my needs were met without struggle." Eve uttered in a regretful note!
Eve explained to me how she used to be move from one estate to another not because she was defaulting on her rent or transfered from her job but her type of 'hustle' compelled her. She could not stay in one estate for a long time without her neighbors beginning to question her behavior; they must have felt uncomfortable with her considering that they had family and growing children.
"For me, this was the sweetest part: to hear that she was under medication and had achieved suppressed viral load. This is a peak of taking medication that everybody is working to achieve."
This was how she lived until she started having frequent complications: today an ache here and tomorrow a pain there. She was in and out of hospital and instead of her health improving, it was deteriorating even further.
"My doctor told me that he had to do run several tests to check what was the matter with me. All the tests turned out negative even with my worsening condition. He then suggested that maybe we should do an HIV test. I wanted to resist but he explained how important it was as far as how I would be treated was concerned. The doctor convinced me and I had to give in," Eve said in a deep breath.
I started to realise that Eve was becoming emotional, her eyes became watery and she was takeng deep breaths. Something must have gone wrong during the tests or something was really disturbing her. Despite this, she continued to narrate what happened after the test!
"The test was done," she continued, "but unfortunately something unexpected happened; I was HIV positive. This sounded like a hell to me and I felt like my breath would stop in the next minute. I was counselled and in the long run I changed my mind. I saw light in my life. A few days later I started taking medication and now am feeling superb. No more complications and I enjoyi being undetectable!"
For me, this was the sweetest part: to hear that she was under medication and had achieved suppressed viral load. This is a peak of taking medication that everybody is working to achieve. The most surprising thing is that after knowing her status, she had to change her sexual life; she could not sleep around with any man she came across and if need be, she opted for protection to avoid infecting the sexual partner or getting reinfected.
We didn't end our talk without making an appeal to people who may come across her story."I beseech the sexually active generation to play safe if they can't abstain. Also let your health come before material benefits or any other gains. Make protection your closest friend, let it be your first and last option!"
Eve (not her real name) was a sex worker but currently runs her own business at the outskirts of Nairobi. She is also a pioneer of a number of women's self help groups ('chamas') in her neighborhood.