Angela, aged 54, Birmingham

No more suffering in silence

"I grew up in a patriarchal society and married into one. My husband abused me for years with impunity. My fleeing to the UK was a way of getting distance from that life.

When I was diagnosed HIV positive in 2002, it was as if the bottom had fallen out from under my feet. The anger and bitterness from the abuse in my marriage intensified. I asked myself, “Why me?” I hated myself, the world and all that was in it. I blamed myself for everything. I even attempted suicide because I could not see a way out.

Since nobody had listened to me when I spoke of the abuse, it was difficult for me to disclose my status to anyone especially my family. I suffered in silence for a long time.

With the help of my consultant, the specialist nurse, and a welfare officer, I began to open up. I was later referred to therapy and I started volunteering with a sexual health charity. Volunteering provided me access to group support, training and information about HIV. I had workshops and group therapy sessions with other people living with HIV.

After a while, I disclosed my status to my sister, but her reception was very negative. She thought that just by volunteering for a sexual health charity I was bringing shame to our family. No one wanted to associate with me. I was excluded from family gatherings. The only place I felt I belonged was when I was volunteering or at the clinic.

Once my therapy progressed and I came to terms that nothing was my fault, I called my son who was in university at that time. When I told him my HIV positive status, he hugged me with tears rolling down his cheeks and told me, whatever the status I was still his Mum and he still loved me. When my son married, his wife accepted me as I am. Their love and acceptance has helped me overcome my depression and concerns with stigma.”

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