Bad News and Good News



“Listen darling, I have bad news and I have good news for you. The bad news is that you are HIV positive. The good news is that we have medicine that will keep you alive”.

Agnes (38) has gone through this monologue over and over again, rehearsing for the day when her daughter turns ten, and it’s time to tell her the truth. The truth that her youngest daughter was born HIV-infected.

─Christina is seven, so I have still got time, Agnes Dissie says and cuddles her daughter’s short, curly hair.

We are back in Malawi. The plan was to take the followers of our blog to other parts of the world for a while, but Agnes and Christina’s story was too touching to be left untold.

Mother and daughter are part of the statistic that puts Malawi on the top ten list of HIV-infection in the world.

The mud-brick house in Area 24 of Lilongwe is neatly furnished with a sofa and three chairs, one of which is occupied by the unwilling contributors to the statistic. Both of them are on ARV-medicine, the drug that keeps millions of HIV-infected people alive around the world.

─I ask her to take her pills. One morning, and one evening, and fortunately she hasn’t asked me why. Agnes smiles, but the joy never reaches her eyes when she tells us that Christinas sister, Memory (11) is unaware that the Disease reached the Dissie family nine years ago. Three out of five are infected. Agnes husband is positive as well. Memory and her brother Adslas (16) are not.

Any speculations about who brought the virus with them into the family, is effectively terminated by Agnes when she says that “HIV can be contracted in so many ways”.

─It is no point to speculate. We have it, and will live with it for the rest of our lives.

Christina smiles at her mother and Agnes smiles back.

─What is your dream for the future, we ask her, assuming that the answer will be to get rid of the virus.

─I want a house, she tells us, a house here in Area 24.

-When I close my eyes I picture a green, large house with three bedrooms. No, wait! I need a guest room, too. Make that four bedrooms, a spacious living room, plus a bathroom and kitchen indoors. No more cooking outside, no more walking in the dark to get to the toilet in the backyard.

-It is my biggest and most wonderful dream. But to be honest it’s not the end of the world if never comes through. The most important thing right now is that we are healthy and happy. The only true fear I have is that one day the international community will stop funding the drugs that keeps us alive. If we don’t get our two pills a day we will die of Aids like hundreds of thousands of Malawians have done before us. The only good thing about that gloomy perspective is that it inspires me to live my life today, and enjoy it, Agnes says. Christina turns her head and looks straight into Ottos camera lens.


29 Responses to “Bad News and Good News”

  1. […] I am back again in Malawi teaching a workshop in foreign journalism with my colleague and friend Øystein when we came across another strong and touching story. It’s about Christina (7) who has been born with HIV. We tell the whole story on our blog. […]

  2. Very inspiring people!

  3. What a touching story.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Very touching, indeed. I’m so happy that those two pills a day exist so that they can live healthy lives…. But it sounds like the fear of losing funding for those pills can be anxiety provoking. However, it does inspire me to live in the now and to appreciate what is. It sounds like they are doing that…. I hope they get their house. I really do.

    Thanks for sharing,

  5. Out of possible tragedy I see a message of hope and love here, lovely capture of the expression on their faces.

  6. The first photo is hauntingly beautiful. The international community must never stop funding the monies for the ARV drugs.

  7. En gripende historie… Flotte bilder, liker spesielt godt det første.

  8. Thank you for your post, such a beautiful family with my hopes for their future to be full of many joys.

  9. A beautiful family, and perhaps if the world sees the HIV problem as individual, beautiful children maybe the solution will be found to this disease.

  10. the beauty of this mother’s optimism despite the terrible knowledge that most of her family is infected with Aids truly is an example and inspiration for me. thank you.

  11. I like the positivity they have imbibed within themselves, yet I feel pity for them. I hope they live a long and wonderful life ahead of them.

  12. I, too, pray the international community never turns its back on these dear people. I really cannot imagine what this mother thinks about when she puts her head down at night. I won’t forget the story of this family. What beautiful portraits!

  13. “The most important thing right now is that we are healthy and happy.” I hope they will always get the two pills and the optimismus as they have now.
    PS: thanks for sharing this story.

  14. powerful

  15. Three of five members have HIV. That number just hits me like a brick wall. My youngest sister died from AIDS. She received a contaminated blood transfusion when she was in the Hospital for Sick Kids. One family member is hard enough, especially a young one. Three of five will live in fear, all of their lives, for two pills.
    I pray they always have them.

  16. Poignant and moving.

  17. Thank you for sharing Agnes and Christina’s story. Despite of their health conditions, their hope, their dreams, their faith and the will to live life to its fullest inspires us all. It breaks my heart though to see young children, so innocent and full of optimism having to face the threat of a dreaded illness that they were defenseless of. I hope and pray for their health as well as the continued support of the Internationl family to help them.

  18. Thank you for bringing us this story! So touching and inspiring. It’s easy to take what we have – our health and homes – for granted. Saying a prayer that she gets her wishes!

  19. Beautiful images here. What unfortunate circumstances, though. Let’s hope for the best for them…

  20. Thank you for sharing this special story. Your images truly tell of the emotions that must be felt.

  21. Thanks for sharing this story about this strong woman and her amazing outlook in the midst of so much trial. Her story makes me think of all the third-world people who do NOT get the drugs they need to keep from dying from AIDS.

  22. Great images and story of hope

  23. WordsFallFromMyEyes Says:

    Hope indeed. They say ‘where there’s life, there’s hope’. My heart in her direction.

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