© Sara Cameron Links | Terms and conditions
Much of this work was originally produced for UNICEF
I am HIV positive and I am only ten years old. I don’t really know what to say about my life. I don’t have much - what is there to tell? Of course, I am thankful for what I have now, but every day has been a struggle.
Before I came here, I was living in Kiwanja Yandege. I was with my family – my seven brothers and sisters and my parents. Then my mom died and everything seemed to go wrong.
My father was sick too, so we had to go stay with our auntie…but then I started to get sick as well. When my father died, my aunt took me to the Child Welfare Society; she didn’t know how to take care of me. I was an AIDS orphan. I belonged somewhere else.
But the home didn’t want me. I started getting this skin condition – you can see the scars all around my face…you see here? The home didn’t want me because they knew I had HIV. They said that they couldn’t take care of me, but I think they were afraid…afraid I would infect them.
I was taken to Pepo la Tumaini Jangwani where things were better. Madame Khadija took me home with her and gave me a place to sleep, food to eat…all of my basic needs. She took me to the hospital as well so that I could get better.
I was happy for a little while; I was eating well, I was in school, I had a home. But then the teachers didn’t want me there…they tried to get rid of me by poisoning my grandmother with lies. They would tell her that Khadija wasn’t taking care of me and I was a burden to her. They said Khadija was taking money from the white volunteers and using it for herself. None of it was true, but my grandmother believed them. She came to Pepo la Tumaini and demanded that I go back with her…there was nothing Khadija could do.
My grandmother doesn’t want me either – I’m not sure why she insisted that I come with her. I am not comfortable living with her. She is a drunk; she comes home and makes noise, and…she abuses me. Sometimes she doesn’t come home and I have no food, which means I can’t take my drugs – they won’t work without food. That’s probably why I always have this cough. It sounds horrible. People must know that I’m sick when they hear it.
When I’m sick with worse things, like malaria, my grandmother doesn’t have money to pay for my medicine. Khadija helps me; she takes me to the hospital and makes sure that I get treatment and food so that I will get better. I wish I could stay at Khadija’s.
I want to leave my grandmother. The beating is painful, and she’s mean. When we walk by our neighbours, she yells to everyone “THIS CHILD IS SICK – SHE HAS THE BAD DISEASE!” …and then no one wants to play with me. Even at home, she doesn’t let me share anything with her – soap, bowls, towels, anything – she says I will infect her. When she’s really angry, or drunk, she chases me out; then I have to sleep outside or go to my sister’s, which is far away…
…I’m sorry to cry…I’m not usually like this…
I really want to finish my education, even though school is sometimes just as bad as home. One of my teachers used to single me out, point to me and tell the others that I am sick. Then of course they don’t want to play with me. Now they all know that I am one of them, one of the HIV victims. My only friends are the kids like me, but we try to support each other as much as we can…it’s difficult though.
…oh…I’m sorry, I just get upset sometimes…I think maybe I should take a break now. Thank you.
Florence in her grandmother’s house brewing tea
|Out of War|
|Papua New Guinea|