Miriam Msiska Nyoni, 53, was diagnosed with HIV when she was 31. She’s now an activist, determined to share her story so she can change people’s mindset around the issue of HIV/AIDS.
“I was so sick. I had black spots all over my body. I had pneumonia, shingles and malaria and I was frequently going to the hospital. I could not even walk.
“I remember when I was first diagnosed with HIV. I felt so sad and lonely. It was hard to accept and, at times, I felt like dying. I contracted HIV from my husband. He’d had sex with someone else. In those days, I wasn’t allowed to talk about our relationship. I was quiet and respected him until I got my diagnosis. During the first eight years, I was silent because of the stigma attached to it. As the reality sank in, my life felt worthless.
“Things took a turn when a lady came to my workplace and shared her story. After her speech, I wrote to her, asking her to meet. She encouraged me to accept what had happened. I was able to regain my freedom, the freedom of accepting my status and the fear of unknown. I wanted to live positively and openly with HIV.
“I am now open about my status. I don’t want anybody to die from denial. HIV is just a status. I live like any normal person. I am still with my husband and we have worked through our issues. Together, we have six children whom I love very much. If you meet me, I am a strong, jovial woman.
“I was a Girl Guide from an early age and as I’ve adjusted, I’ve found renewed strength through my Guiding knowledge. Guiding taught me resilience and reminded me that when times are hard, we must stick together and look after one another. The same goes for someone who is HIV positive. We need to live a stress-free life, full of love.
"Guiding taught me resilience and reminded me that when times are hard, we must stick together and look after one another."
“It’s so important I use my knowledge to educate girls and young women in Malawi about HIV. Malawi’s HIV prevalence is one of the highest in the world, with 10.6% of the adult population (aged 15-64) living with it (Ministry of Health 2016). Moreover, HIV disproportionately affects women in comparison to men in Malawi. I’ve started working with the Girl Guides of Malawi as a volunteer on their Know Your Score project, which encourages and educates girls on why they must get tested.
“The Know Your Score programme provides a safe space for girls to share their story. In Malawi many girls have early sex because of poverty and peer pressure. When I attend sessions, I tell them my story and emphasise the importance of education, abstinence, safe sex and getting tested.
“I want to see girls going to school. If they go to school they won’t have time for boys and sugar daddies. Education should empower them. After all, if you educate a girl you educate a nation.”