In the novel Welcome to our Hillbrow Mpe discusses the issues of AIDS, xenophobia directed toward West Africans and black migrant workers in general, witchcraft, and the sometimes devastating consequences of gossip. As I was reading the book, I was constantly recalling my experience in Africa. During the recent Public Health seminar in Ethiopia we had an opportunity to work with Maiden centre that provides social service to the underprivileged, and AIDS/Leprosy/Tuberculosis infected people. I had a chance to interview three women, to learn their stories, and to know how does the Centre assist them with their burden. Here is a narrative of one of the women that I would love to share with you:
“My name is Alimtu (Seasye). I am a single mother with three kids from a small village – Agaki. I learned about Maiden center from Alert Hospital. Thanks to the Maiden center for bringing me back to life. I was almost on the edge to death that even my funeral arrangements were discussed couple years ago… But now I am a happy woman, and feel blessed for everything I have. And this is my story of renaissance:
After I gave a birth to my third child terrible things started to happen with me in a sequence: my husband passed away, I had the first signs of the mysterious disease on my legs that made the whole community to avoid me: they had a prejudice that my injured leg is a sin from God, and also the fact that I am “contagious” might be a reason as well. Nobody knew what was the reason of the skin-rush exactly, and the only treatment I received was the holy water from the church. My health condition even worsened within a time; I was terribly sick that stayed in bed for almost six months. I couldn’t walk; doctors in the village were discussing to do amputation of my leg. But it was not the worst thing I heard, I was more heart-broken when my native brother screamed at me once, saying that I am sick and not like others, hence I shouldn’t live with them anymore.
It hurt my feeling a lot, so I decided to run away from my home. I walked miles and miles with my injured leg caring my six months old baby with me from my village to get to the nearest bus station. I made it to Addis Ababa, and Maiden center did it best to provide me medical, financial, and moral support. They found us a place to stay, gave us nets, beds, mattresses, and all other commodities. I learned the diseases that I had were AIDS along with leprosy, and I was consulted with the ways it can be treated. My children were supported as well with all the essentials for school, like uniforms and books. Both of my daughters, who are 13 and 5 years old, go to school here in Addis, while my other son who is 9 years old decided to finish school in Agaki. All of my children are obedient and outstanding students. I want them to receive full education, be independent in the future, and be able to take care of themselves. My elder daughter wants to become a doctor, and the younger – a teacher. Thanks to the treatment that I received at Maiden center: I can walk and make some profit for my family by selling soaps in the streets.
I believe in and love God. I know everything is in God’s plan, and I pray that he will cure me. As long as I live, I will make sure we take the pills. Everything is the will of God; pills are the will of God. I think about what will happen to my daughter if I die, but thoughts are nothing. Everything is God’s will. I am grateful beyond measure, and I am grateful also to speak about the experience.”