‘Live your life right’

Normal, Weekender

Nicholas Senat, a fully blown AIDS sufferer, says he is sorry for intentionally spreading the virus, writes GERALDINE VILAKIVA

Enjoy life to the fullest is a common phrase that young people tend to use when they are out partying or hanging out with friends.
But too much enjoyment may cost one’s own life, according to Nicholas Senat, 26, who has been living with HIV/AIDS for more than five years.
Mr Senat, from Siasi in Morobe province has urged young people not to indulge in premarital sex, as it comes with consequences such as HIV/AIDS.
Mr Senat admitted that over the five years he had intentionally passed the virus to many young working women.
“I found out that I was HIV positive in 2007, when I was just 23 years old and this was after I started losing weight and having diarrhea for more than three weeks,” he said.
“My immediate family took me to Igat Hope centre in Port Moresby where my blood test confirmed that I was HIV positive,” he said.
Mr Senat said that he “completely lost his mind” after that and didn’t want to seek counseling or help as he thought that was the end of his young life.
“Before I used to wear condoms every time I had sex but after I knew I was HIV positive, I developed a no-care attitude and slept with those women as at that time I thought why should I suffer and die while these women enjoy their life, let them suffer and feel my pain as well,” he said in Tok Pisin.
He began taking herbal medicine which he was made to believe would make him well and reverse his HIV status.
“I started taking the herbs in November 2007, but it did not help my condition and I went from being HIV positive to full-blown AIDS in January 2008,” he said.
Mr Senat was admitted to Port Moresby General Hospital and during that time tried unsuccessfully to take his own life.
“I was put on Anti-Retro Virol (ARV) drug, but I had side-effects after taking it as I would vomit green stuff and also have diarrhea so I stopped taking them,” he said.
When his condition deteriorated, his family, who were very supportive, decided to send him back to the village, Omon on Siassi Island.
“My family saw that I will not live long so they sent me to the village to stay with my father’s elder brother so that if I die, it will be easy to bury my body in the village,” he said
Mr Senat is now a Christian and has taken up positive living. He is regaining his weight and his appetite. He has also decided to come out openly and tell his story.
“It wasn’t an easy task to just come out and share my story. My mother agreed with the idea but my dad said he will be ashamed if I openly tell my story, but I decided to come out and tell my story,” he said.
He said being a young person with the virus, is really hard on him but he felt to share his experience as a warning to young men and women.
“I urge young people who are into premarital sex or married men and women who are having more than one sexual partner to stop what you are doing,” he said.
He also discourages the use of condoms as they are not 100% safe
Asked about the women he had infected, he said that he “was truly sorry for the mistake he did at that time and asked for their forgiveness”.
“I already made that mistake which I cannot take it back, I was in that state of mind that everything doesn’t matter anymore, when I did that, and now I am truly sorry,” he said.
He urged others who are HIV positive not to follow his actions but to seek help.
Angela Worealewi, HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Catholic Diocese in Lae, also supports the call, for young people who are living with the virus to come out openly.
“It is a very brave thing for young people like Nicholas to come out and speak openly as not very many in his age group will do that,” she said.
“I urge them to come out and seek counseling as there is hope,” she added.
She also stressed the importance of family acceptance saying that “love and care plus family support for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) is essential to their health”.
Nicholas plans on becoming an active advocate visiting school in the province to speak to young people about HIV/AIDS.
He has started doing awareness in his village and surrounding villages urging people not to indulge in promiscuous behaviors.
He believes his message has convinced a lot of young people and men in his village to change their behaviour and attitude.