Zahra (not her real name), 39, found out that she was HIV positive when she went for a medical check-up during her pregnancy 17 years ago. Her doctor recommended her to start immediate antiretroviral treatment to prevent her unborn child from getting infected.
Soon after she gave birth, her husband died from brain tumor and she was left alone to care for her son, who is now 16 years old.
A former nurse, Zahra found it tough to find a stable job to support her family due to her HIV status. She faced a lot of stigma and discrimination when applying for jobs, especially those that require her to do a HIV test. She also needs to go for frequent medical check-ups and follow-ups which caused a financial drain on her.
Zahra then decided to return to her parents’ house in Melaka and she was fortunate to get their support regardless of her status. They inspired her to live a good life and constantly reminded her to continue getting treatment.
However, due to stress and her deteriorating health, Zahra defaulted on her treatment regime and developed resistance to her first-line treatment. As a result, she now needs second-line treatment which is not provided free at government hospitals. The medications cost her up to RM500 a month.
To earn extra money, she helps out her parents at their food stall near their housing area where she sells nasi lemak, mee goreng and a variety of kuih muih.
Zahra was delighted when she qualified for the MyLady Assistance Scheme run by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation. The programme gives her the opportunity to expand her family’s business by equipping her with vocational skills and financial aid. She has set her sights on opening a restaurant so she can better provide for her family.
“My family is all that I have left in this world. They have been with me through good and bad times. I am so happy to be given this chance to turn my life around and become a successful businesswoman one day,” she said.