For most women, being in love, means throwing caution to the wind. The thought of ever being betrayed by their significant other is implausible.
Like many women, when Martha Ngoma, 28, met Nathan, she thought she had found the love of her life - the man she would spend the rest of her life with. (Real names withheld to protect and respect their privacy)
Martha recounted how they instantly became good friends and in no time started dating. She said that they had so much in common and he was well mannered, educated and blessed with dashing looks.
"But what I loved most was his kind nature. For the first time in my life, I was able to be completely vulnerable with a man and yet still feel safe,” she added.
Although she was quick to point out that the relationship was not perfect, Martha said the differences only seemed to make the relationship stronger. At least that is what she thought until a year later when she discovered her boyfriend had been cheating.
She was devastated. Not only because her prince had turned into a frog, but she feared that her reluctance to insist on using condoms in their relationship may have left her vulnerable to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), especially HIV.
“I think i was more worried about getting pregnant. We only used condoms during my danger days when there was a possibility that I could get pregnant,” said Martha who only shrugged her shoulders and looked rather embarrassed when asked if there was ever a moment she thought about the possibility of contracting HIV.
To clear her conscience, Martha decided to have a complete screening for all STIs.
Fortunately, the results were negative. But just as she was beginning to get on with her life, she received some rather disturbing news - Her ex-boyfriend's other lover was HIV positive. The information came from a credible source who knew the girl well.
The informant advised Martha to get tested so that she could know her status. In denial, she phoned her ex boyfriend so he could refute the claims but his answer shocked her.
A teary Martha said “he straight up told me he knew about her HIV status but insisted he had not slept with her."
Martha narrates how she immediately went numb and then became hysterical. She remembered the nurse insisting that she goes back for another HIV test after 3 months and at that moment it occurred to her that there was a 90 percent chance she could be carrying the virus.
That night, thoughts of how she would tell her family and find the courage to live positively, crowded her mind. Martha was also filled with anger and regret, wishing she had thought of using condoms or just abstained. Although her ex had denied having sex with his other lover, she wondered at what point in their relationship, the woman had revealed her status to him. Besides, he could not be trusted, he had told so many lies before.
Her only option was to have another HIV test. This time around she knew the results would change her life forever.
“I can’t remember any other time in my life when I have been so scared. Even after counselling, I was still shaking when I took the test. As I waited for the results, I said a prayer asking God to give me the strength to accept what was to come. I knew what the results would be, I just needed confirmation and soon enough it came,” a somewhat relieved but distraught Martha said.
In shock, she asked the nurse if she could run the test again, but was assured that the clinic was very thorough in the way it conducted its tests. She left the clinic dumbfounded, with the counsellor emphasising the importance of abstinence and use of condoms.
“I needed that wake up call. I was leading a very careless life, literally placing my life in someone else’s hands. Had the results been positive, I would have had no one to blame but myself because not once did he force himself on me,” she added.
Martha concluded that "It’s dangerous to think the person you are with only has sex with you alone and not every HIV positive person will reveal his/her status before any sexual contact. Until you someone discloses to you, don't take things for granted in the name of love and trust. In my case, when love comes around, I intend to take charge.”