I am a forty-five year old woman who has never been kissed, yet I’m sitting in the reception of a HIV testing clinc, legs pressed together as my vagina twangs from remembered anguish. How did I get here? It’s not a story that I like to tell. I’d rather tell you about the young man who fainted just before his result was announced.
He was well
dressed in a rather shabby way, in clothes that were trendy a few years
ago. I watched him with a fascination that surprised and pleased me, a
tiny smile played at the edges of my lips when it hit me that I wasn’t
thinking of my own circumstances. When he stood up to go for his test
result, his wobbly legs made me smile even though I knew mine would be
wobble even more when it finally became my turn.
It was the
nurse’s shout that shook me out of my reverie, there seemed to be
commotion in the counselling room. The nurse ran out of the room and the
man with the beard that made me think of suicide bombers ran to see
what had chased her out. The nurse who had taken our vital signs didn’t
even stir although I saw the look she gave to the other nurse when she’d
run out, Ojukwu would have given Gowon a friendlier look in 1968.
“He don faint” the spy called out although the faint sounded like paint due to his Hausa accent.
The nurse came back with a cup of water and rushed into her office to
pour it on his face, I heard him sputter and cough as he regained
consciousness. The bearded man helped him stand up and led him to the
reception room which had much better ventilation.
negative Mr man” The nurse had followed them and had a look of intense
irritation on her face as she told him his result in front of all of us.
“That’s unprofessional” the other nurse interjected. Her name tag read Martha P
“Please don’t be angry at her, madam” the recently revived man said with relief dripping from every word.
The nurse who delivered the news simply smiled at him and wished him
goodluck before going back to the counselling room. The young girl who
had been clutching her rosary didn’t even look up during the whole
commotion although her mother craned her head from side to side. I
wonder what her story is and if it was worse than mine, somehow I don’t
think it can be.
“Miss Regina Maloko,” someone shouted.
That’s my name, Regina. The nurse wants to counsel me and give me my
result. I don’t want to be here, I want to be in my flat in London
watching Eastenders and Coronation Street and that dreadful Ricky
Gervais who I keep wishing would leave his partner and come and live in
sin with me for just six months.
I wish I hadn’t come back to
Nigeria to see my mother who had sounded like she was at death’s door,
she knew I wouldn’t have come back if l thought she was fine. I was
incensed when I saw her jumping like a young cricket when I came home, I
almost turned back to the airport when I saw that there was nothing
wrong with her.
They say hindsight is 20/20, mine is 50/20 right
now. if I had taken a taxi back to the airport and returned to my
beloved London, I would have been spared the horror of having my own
brother rape me with the approval of my mother.
The story isn’t
as dramatic as it sounds, my brother is HIV positive and the witch
doctor that my mother had consulted told them that he would be cleansed
of his disease if he had sex with his only sister. My mother and brother
have seven masters degrees between them and they both have PhDs, yet on
my first night in my mother’s house, my brother came into my room and
raped me. When he finished, he told me why he had done it and asked me
to understand. My mother came in and told me how they believed that his
HIV was a spiritual attack by his enemies because he had been faithful
to his wife for the last two years. I cried until the next morning and
left the house before they woke up.
They kept calling and
begging for forgiveness, I had to throw away the phone line that they
had bought for me and made my way to a city in another part of the
country and began the procedure for Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
treatment. The doctor explained that it was standard protocol in cases
like mine in which the individual had been exposed to the virus, he said
if I still tested negative to the virus after three months then I was
free and clear. Today is the third month anniversary of that cursed
My legs do not wobble when I walk across the reception
area to the counselling room, my late father would have been proud of my
straight posture as I walked to get my result.
weakness in front of anyone, you are made of the finest material-
royalty. That is why I named you Regina” he’d say whenever I cried,
remembering my father moved water from my mouth to my eyes. I shut my
eyes to keep the tears in.
I turn the knob and walk into the
little room to meet the slightly flustered nurse. I pull back the white
plastic chair and tell her.
“I am Regina Maloko and I prefer to be addressed as Dr Maloko”