Born with HIV on the 12th of the 12th month in 1982… Possibly the oldest person living with HIV in Africa.
My name is Ntimbwe M Mpamba. I’m 30 years old. I’m a very vibrant person, I like to smile and see the people around me smiling. I always look for opportunities to make a difference in society and in people’s lives. I was born on the 12th of the 12th month in 1982. I was raised by both parents, my mother was a nutritionist by profession and my father was a purchasing and supply manager under the Zambia mines. Being the last born in a family of five kids had its ups and downs. I guess the downs got the best of my life.
At the time I was an energetic little boy, I always did find myself in situations which were unbearable. I mean just the thought of being crushed by a car or being accidentally hit by flying shot-put or even falling from a tall mango tree were tragedies that made me feel as though I was indestructible in my own crazy world.
Relocating from mother Zambia to South Africa in 1992 opened up new doors to my life where I would enjoy the goodness of greener pastures. As sweet as it may sound, my health got a knock on the head; I started to experience all manner of sicknesses. I got chickenpox, part of the herpes virus. I had a week bladder and rashes all over my body and face. My mother being a nutritionist introduced me to the world of vitamins. The love and trust I had for my parents didn’t give me a reason to ask any questions but simply just flowed with the music.
Early 1995, my father got seriously ill and suffered from meningitis. Not knowing what it was, I didn’t take serious cause I thought it was a just a phase in life. It didn’t take much time before the grave called his name. I was torn apart. After my father’s death things became difficult for us to remain in South Africa as my mother was not working. Running out of options, mother decided to head back to Zambia where she would try to keep the family from falling apart. The moving back was the easy part but getting back to our feet was something I live to remember. My mother being unemployed, my health being compromised was something the family couldn’t bear. Praying and fasting, while lodging at my uncle’s place was the best solution at the time. It didn’t take long before God answered our plea, mom got a job, and we got a house. I got my hope back. Life was not perfect, but there was hope and we believed that we could make it in this big world.
I was finally happy until pneumonia came walking in, T.B came flying after and herpes managed to sneak in my livelihood. These followed each other as they were related to one another. But as much as they had set their desire to take me down, my strong mind-set was not shaken because I knew that I was more than a conqueror and was born for greatness and not failure.
Late 2004, my mother suffered from a T.B relapse and didn’t manage to pull through. My life was at a standstill because my reason for living had gone with her. My school life was distorted and saw myself as an empty vessel. I was later taken in by my sisters who were in South Africa. The changing of environments took its toll and my health was beyond redemption.
After my mom died, my health really took a knock. First my left lung was eroded by a virus, the herpes zoster, also known as shingles. This led my right eye to total blindness. The doctor’s ran tests and the secret was out. I was told that I was HIV positive. Me? HIV positive? A lot of questions went through my head. Why me? How did I acquire it? I had never been with multi sexual partners. I was not sexually active and had not been exposed to any risky situations that could cause me to acquire the virus.
I dealt with different emotions and of course like everyone in my situation, I was depressed as no one could answer the questions I had. In 2012 a family relative actually told me I was actually born with HIV and the entire family had kept this as a secret. Point is denial is real and many a times I have tried to run away from this situation. The saying goes what you don’t know won’t kill you but in actual sense what you don’t know will kill you faster than you know.
Worse Decision Of My Life
I was really ill and to be honest with you, I never for once thought I would make it through. Through the support from the church, friends and family, my spirit got the hope to hang on and fight the good fight. In 2005, I was introduced to the world of ARV’s or should I say, ARV’s were introduced to my world. ARV’s were assigned as my assistant in putting the virus in its place. At this time my CD4 count was 36 and the viral load was a million plus copies. As my body responded to the drugs, my health got a massive boost. Through a combination of faith, prayers and the medication, I regained my site and the lungs kicked back into shape. I was feeling and looking better.
Being ill-informed, and thinking I had won this battle against HIV, I decided to play around with medication. I started taking it at my own time and sometimes not take it at all. I defaulted. The worse decision of my life. The virus didn’t waste time to fight back and I became resistant to the drugs. I went back to the weak, lifeless Ntimbwe that I hated.
I went through five different specialists, and after spending a lot of money trying to locate the drug that I was resistant to in private hospitals, they all told me my best option would be a government hospital. When I was on medication, my CD4 count increased from 38 to 490. When I defaulted, my CD4 count dropped from 490 to 8 and my viral load sprung up to one million plus again. I was referred to a government hospital where research would be tried on me to try and keep me alive. I responded well to the research and gained my health back through the Grace of the almighty God. Another chance at this thing called life.
With everything that happened in my life, the ups and mostly the downs, with the instability, I still kept a positive attitude. I still had dreams and I strived to live a normal life.
I matriculated in 2001 with 3 Distinctions and I went college where I have studied accounting. I completed the CAT’s programme with ACCA and would like to complete my ACCA to become a Chartered Accountant. I would also like to be an inspiration to the young and help those who fall victims of HIV as well as young children dealing with different emotions related to rejection, bad health and struggling families. If I can do it, so can they.
Bottom line is I have risen above HIV, with ARV’s readily available from the African governments, the love from family and friends; I see myself as an important member of society and would like to make a positive contribution to other people. I would like to reshape the face of HIV especially for children born with HIV. Today anything is possible and nothing can stop you if your spirit wills. Remember life is a straight road that has no stop sign, no corners but just pit stops. I have written a book where the whole journey of my life will be explained in detail.
I deserve a fair chance!!!!!
I was sickened but did not die,
Was crushed but not destroyed.
Pushed but did not fall yet
It’s true that I am alive because
Greater is he that is me than
He that is in the world
Thula Mkhize: Being Great Soldiers Of War
We met a great soldier last week Wednesday, such a great soul and abundantly blessed. Death came knocking on his door, he opened the door and kissed death. He was almost six feet under, a couple of times, but death failed, the grave couldn’t contain him. 31 years later, 31 years of living with HIV, he still walks today, always wearing a smile. What an inspiration!
When I met him, I shared my vision of this fight against HIV/AIDS. How we need soldiers to win this war … And this morning, I woke up to the e-mail below and damned near shed a tear.
From: Ntimbwe Mpamba
Tittle: Being Great Soldiers Of War
I was laying on my bed and asked myself a question – Who am I?
The answer popped up and I realised that I am a *Great Soldier*
For I went to war against the virus and took over its authority. WE as a group of young & positive individuals have a drive and desire to make a dent in this world. Its time we stopped waiting for miracles (donors, govt. etc) and become the miracles that will bring out the miracles. We should have a burning passion inside to teach the weak-minded, denial-minded and especially the narrow-minded that if we could stand up and fight the good fight, then they can do the same and join hands to celebrate VICTORY!!!!