Don’t give up hope: Amina’s story

Amina Abdullahi contemplated suicide after discovering she was both pregnant and living with HIV, but after giving birth she feels differently and urges others not to give up hope.

Amina Abdullahi contemplated suicide after discovering she was both pregnant and living with HIV, but after giving birth she feels differently and urges others not to give up hope.

In Nigeria, 3.4 million people are living with HIV, 80 per cent of whom will have contracted the virus through heterosexual sex (UNAIDS).

Amina*, from Kaduna State, North Central Nigeria, is now a 26-year-old mother of one. Both her and her baby are living with HIV and have had to deal with the pain of stigma they’ve faced as a result of their HIV status.

Sexual and reproductive health

Amina comes from a poor family, but as the first child her parents did all they could to send her to school. When she gained admission into university, her parents and entire family were very proud of her. Her dad sold some of his property to pay for her fees while her mum borrowed money from friends. Amina wanted to be an established businesswoman who would make her family proud and support her siblings. She went to university, determined to make it through.

Two years into her studies, Amina met Kabiru. He was handsome and very generous, providing her with money to take care of her needs. Even though her parents had warned her to stay away from men while in school, Amina felt Kabiru was too good to bring any harm to her. When Kabiru asked her out she gladly accepted and, three months later, she moved in with him. She was in love and life seemed perfect.

Although Amina and Kabiru had maintained a no-sex relationship Kabiru never complained. Amina says: “This made me love him even more.” But one night, three weeks after she moved in with him, Kabiru said he had endured long enough and that, if she truly loved him, she would have sex with him.

Amina had grown to trust Kabiru so she agreed but he had no condom. She initially refused but he assured her that he was safe and would withdraw prior to ejaculation so she wouldn’t get pregnant. Amina says: “I was naive and blinded by my feelings for him, so I agreed. But a month later I started feeling sick.”

Amina went to the doctor who confirmed she was pregnant. Then, two days later, she got a call from the hospital to come back. When she got there, the doctor revealed to her that, after further tests, she was living with HIV.

Feeling ashamed

“I felt ashamed and betrayed by Kabiru,” says Amina. “I accosted him to disclose his true HIV status to me. He said he was negative but would not go for any test to confirm this. It was then I realised I had been deceived.

“I thought of the disappointment it would bring to my parents. I was confused and felt the only way to escape the situation was to take my life. I went back home and tried taking poison. But just when I was about to ingest the substance, which I had bought on my way back from the hospital, I realised I had another life inside me and it would be unfair to end the innocent baby’s life without giving it a fair chance.

“I decided not to. Instead I chose not to go back home to my parents until I delivered the baby. And that has been my resolve.”

Finding hope

Amina has almost finished with her studies. She says she is scared of going back home and disclosing she has a baby and her HIV status to her parents as she feels it will shatter their hearts. However, she believes one day she will summon enough courage to tell her family about her situation.

Amina hopes her story will touch the lives of other young women living with HIV in Nigeria showing them that they should not give up hope as it does not limit someone from realising their dreams. She still believes she can become a successful businesswoman and take her family out of poverty. She also wants to get married and have more children.

Amina says: “I believe one day various cultures and religious groups will learn to accept people living with HIV and there will be no discrimination.”

Amina regrets not having accessed the services which are available that can prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies, as was advised by the doctor. Amina didn’t go because of stories she’d heard from other women which made her fear being discriminated against.

“I hope for a better health policy by the government that would discourage stigmatisation and discrimination and support women living with HIV to access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services to improve the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” she says.

* All names changed to protect interviewees’ identities