Meet Lorna – daughter, wife, mother and woman living with HIV. Lorna has chosen to let her status define her as an outspoken activist, champion and winner against stigma and discrimination. Her cheerful personality and loving nature forces you to stop and think before you draw away. She has been using her experiences to change lives in her native Trinidad & Tobago and across the wider Caribbean.
Join Lorna as she shares how HIV changed her life.
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From Guest Feature:
Life With HIV
I am Lorna Hamilton-Henry. I am part of an unusual couple. I have three lovely, healthy children. I have been living with HIV for 15 years or so. I contracted HIV at a young age before I met my husband but only found out after a month of being married. At just the rumour of my status, my husband and I were put out from where we lived at my mother. They all thought I could give them tuberculosis if I lived in the same space, so we were forced to leave. My husband lost everything because of my status. He lost friends and because our income was based on his trade he lost customers, so HIV took a lot from us. Our first two children were denied their right to education by being refused admission to a school close to where we lived. We then had to send them to one outside of the area. This was difficult because we could not afford it.
The first time my children were discriminated against, I went public. I knew that I must set the correct example for them and try to put the correct information out so that other persons who were afraid to speak out or stand up would not have to face the same treatment. It was also a way to support my family because we needed the money this would bring in to survive. HIV has caused many people to live in poverty because you are no longer allowed to enjoy your basic rights. As a person living with this disease your rights are infringed upon time and time again.
When I go out to speak I tell people we are just that – people. People living with a disease but we have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else. I tell them discrimination is a form of murder. You may not have stabbed me or shot me but the stress you induce can cause me to deteriorate and die.
I thank God for His grace and His mercy. I thank him because He does not see me as others do. He loves me regardless and keeps me. Without my faith in God I don’t know what I would have done. Through His word I could face all that having HIV has brought with it. He provides because we still need help to survive financially to send our kids to school. His word comforts me so much because when I am having a bad day, be it discrimination or a side effect from the medication, I just pray and I can feel him there loving me through it. Without my faith in God I am sure I would have been dead a long time ago and I would not have my three healthy children today. People advised me not to have the last baby because she could contract HIV, but God showed up as usual and she is perfectly healthy. For some time I was scared because I was so sick during that pregnancy. I spent many days at the hospital but at birth they were able to say she did not contract HIV.
Recently, I started an NGO called Mothers2Mothers (Trinidad and Tobago). It is aimed at providing a form of support that is much needed if we are to have all babies born HIV negative by 2015. As a mother with HIV and having experienced the bad treatment at the health facilities, even though doctors and nurses are suppose to know better, I saw the need for this kind of support. I also intend to go into the health facilities, if allowed, to encourage mothers to get tested. If found HIV+ I intend to give them the support they need to take care of themselves and their babies. Mothers who are already HIV positive will get support too and can be mentor mothers so they can support others like themselves and take care of some of their financial needs.
We are unable to give them a salary but what we give them will help. I really believe this will help in the fight to have all babies HIV free because everyone really needs someone and it is better to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. I have already helped two mothers and they are so grateful for Mothersm2Mothers TT, so I guess I am now a grandmother. I now have two children underneath my NGO and they have become part of my family. I am not only setting an example for my children who I will train to live healthy lives and make the right decisions but I am setting an example for the world and showing everyone there is life after HIV and you have to make the change you want to see. Be the change.
Mothers2Mothers is about empower women to empower each other, building relationships as we will deal with the husbands or boyfriends as well. We will help them to take care of their families as many mothers are left alone after finding out their status. It is also about training these mothers to talk with their children, encouraging them to live healthy lives, especially given that we must fight for so much.
I am doing this because when I was sick and sent home to die, God said to me that it is not my time yet. I promised God that if He should bring me through this, I would help others understand. Sometimes the fight is hard and I feel like giving up but then I remember where He brought me from and how He has kept me ever since. If more people like me don’t speak out how will change come?