I'm just waiting for my last breath - HIV-positive woman talks of stigma, regrets
July 29 will always remain a date Sandy Brown* wishes would disappear from the calendar.
Exactly eight years ago, she lost her babyfather to HIV/AIDS and stated that was the day she had to accept the harsh reality that she also carried the virus.
"We had broken up a few years before and I relocated to live in another parish. He was a good father to the kids, so when he came back begging for another chance I gave him, but that was the day I signed my death certificate," she said.
The 42-year-old said she noticed that her partner had lost weight but didn't make much of it until he lost close to 60 pounds.
"He told me he had an issue with his liver. I believed him because he was a heavy drinker. I trusted him so much that even when I saw the rashes on my skin later on, I blamed it on the river water that I was using to bathe," she said.
Soon after, Brown said rumours began circulating in her rural community that they were 'victims', but she was clueless to what they were talking about.
Brown said her partner's condition became worse until he became bedridden; that was when he broke the news.
"I had just showered him and he just blurt it out and said, "Fun and joke aside, you know a AIDS me have, don't?" The blank stare at me told me he wasn't lying. He died just weeks after. He had suffered a massive heart attack," she said.
Brown said the months after his death were a blur to her, stating that her health took a drastic turn for the worse.
Rapid weight and hair loss, rashes and sore throat were just a few of her many symptoms.
"I remember the morning I went to doctor to do the test and I could barely think. When he called me back a few weeks after and say me should come by his office, me never turn up because me know me doom already," she said.
Brown said she has never admitted her status to her family, especially her mother.
"I was so ashamed, because she had warned me against the relationship from the start. But the district people dem make me be the talk of the town, down to the point where certain taxis refused to carry me. I remember going to a shop and everything me ask for the shopkeeper said he didn't have it, because he didn't want to take the money from me," she said.
Brown said she has relocated to Kingston, where she is being cared for by her daughter.
Refusing to take the medication earlier, she told THE STAR that the virus is now in an advanced stage.
"I really don't know how much longer I will live because the last time I went to the hospital, the doctors told my daughter to just make me 'comfortable'. I have myself to blame because I allowed persons' negative comments to get the best of me, so I refused to even take the medication because I was in denial," she said.
Brown said she is advising others in her situation to face their fears and never be misguided by the stigma.
"I am grateful to be alive regardless of what any doctor said. I am living with this for more than a decade and my health could have been better if I didn't trust too much or think much of what others had to say," she said.
* Name changed