38 year old Chido from Zimbabwe had been married for 20 years and was blessed with three children in the union.
Chido and Sam were what is defined as a serodiscordant couple – one with a mixed HIV status.
“I got married when I was 18 years old and I endured all types of abuse from my
husband but I still wanted to keep my marriage.
“At first I could not believe the results because we had just had unprotected sex the previous night. He was a very adulterous man yet I kept praying to God that he would find his turning point and stop cheating on me.
“So even when we finally went for an HIV test in 2007 and he was found to be HIV positive and I was negative, I still stood by him and comforted him assuring him that all would be well,” she recalled.After the HIV tests, they were given guidelines on how they should live as husband and wife by counsellors, according to Chido.
“After the tests, we were told that we were to have sex using condoms so that I don’t get infected. And this then created more problems because he insisted that he didn’t want to use protection because he had paid lobola and was taking good care of me,” she said.Her only crime being proposing that they use condoms during sex, Chido, suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse from Sam.
She was even chased from their matrimonial bedroom in 2008.
“He became crueller after we got the results as he would question how I had tested negative yet we were having unprotected sex.Chido said she went to hell and back from the time Sam knew that he was HIV positive while she was negative.
“He chased me from the bedroom hurling insults at me.
“Sometimes he would even prick the condom during sex and I still don’t understand why he wanted to infect me.
“So many a times, he forced himself on me without protection and I had to get post-exposure prophylaxes about three times as I feared that he had infected me,” she adds.
“Maybe he was in denial, I still don’t understand because he really was determined to infect me”.
In 2012, she approached the Harare Civil Court where she sought for a protection order against sexual, emotional and physical abuse, which was granted.
“I thought this would deter him from abusing me, but it did not. He continued forcing himself on me, I could call it marital rape yet I had nowhere to run to. I tried to seek refuge at church where I told the church elders about my problems and how he was forcing himself on me but that didn’t help.
“They told us to continue praying rather than counselling him to appreciate how we were supposed to use condoms to keep both of us safe,” she added.Chido said she did ‘everything’ to make Sam accept his status and stop abusing her. From joining discordant couples networks, going for regular counselling, ensuring that he adhered to treatment which he started taking in 2009 but all this didn’t work.
“We joined a network of other couples who had a mixed status and I thought this would help him through sharing experiences but he made us withdraw from the network arguing that he had no time.
“This then became the boiling point and I just didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stand the abuse anymore,” she chronicled as she fought hard to hold back her tears.That same year in 2012 after approaching the civil court, Chido decided she had had enough of the sexual abuse since nothing was deterring him, she filed for divorce.
“That was a very cumbersome (divorce) process although I had no option. I thought of my three children with the eldest who is 18 years old now but still I had no reason to be in this marriage where I had endured sexual, emotional and physical abuse and my children knew I wasn’t happy,” she said.According to the divorce papers which Chido showed to H-Metro, she cited wilful HIV exposure by Sam as the major reason why their marriage had failed to work.
“The defendant is willingly exposing the plaintiff to HIV infection since he is HIV positive and she is negative by forcing himself without proper protection.
“He is also abusive both physically and emotionally. She lost love and affection due to the abuse,” read part of the papers.Divorce was finalised in December 2014 and Chido has since approached the Harare Civil Court seeking for variation on the protection order.
“He threatened to kill me and the children after one of the properties was given to our 18-year-old child.
“Now I want the courts to order him to stop coming to my house and we can always arrange a place where he can see his children,” she pleaded.Chido’s life mirrors that of other women who have suffered silently in marriages as men refuse to go for HIV tests.
While Chido managed to convince Sam to get tested and has a testimony to tell, not all women have been as fortunate as she is.
“I had been regularly going for HIV tests for all the 20 years that I had been married, my only fear was having him infect me because he was promiscuous and I knew that during my first five years in marriage.
“It is not by luck that I’m HIV negative but it’s just by the grace of God,” she said.