I am a woman living with HIV and a busy mother of three young boys under ten years old. One of my children is also living with HIV.
In this time of Coronavirus, our usual busy life of school sports and my own studies have not stopped. We have changed our habits to reduce community transmission and try to do things at home where possible.
Having all three kids at home at all times has its own set of challenges although to keep ourselves and the community safe, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
As a sole parent, my access to shops or pharmacies are rare. To do that, means I need to bring my three children with me. This gives me an amount of fear and anxiety. This is due to the risk of my family being exposed to the Coronavirus, but also I feel an increased sense of hostility towards children in public. I put this down to what I call the “just leave them at home mentality.” As a mum, I feel this isn’t an option for young children when it is often difficult for me to organise babysitting.
Access to HIV medications for my child who is living with HIV, must be collected from the pharmacy once a month, as a postal service isn’t offered in my area. Sometimes I worry about the future supply of HIV medications. One of the medications my child is on, has been named a few times in the news as a medication being researched as a treatment for Coronavirus. I have personally had some difficulties accessing this HIV medication.
There have been times when I have also had some distress over my fears of my child contracting COVID-19. I still have very vivid memories of seeing him deteriorate rapidly from an influenza A infection he had last year. My memories of him being very ill from HIV before his diagnosis and treatment at 11 months old, are still very strong with me as well.
I also have fears that if I was to get sick with COVID-19, no one would be there for my children. My own health has been on the back burner. My HIV health care provider has been understandably very busy. He still makes an effort to assist me, but I feel like there have been increased delays.
All of these worries and the lack of physical contact with my family and friends have definitely had an impact on my mental health. I try and stay positive in these challenging times and keep awareness of those around me who are struggling as well, and I know how fortunate Australia is in our infection rate compared to other countries.
I have been reflecting a lot on my experience with HIV since my diagnosis which includes truckloads of trauma, and also truckloads of positive experiences. Both of these have made me who I am today as a woman, and as a HIV positive woman who will speak up against discrimination towards people living with HIV.