I hid my HIV status from my husband for seven years – Pastor Lucy Nyawira

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When people realise they have HIV, the first thing they do is often to let their partners in on the diagnosis and discuss the next steps, but not Lucy Nyawira Thuo.

Pastor Lucy Thuo has been married to her partner for over 21 years and shares two beautiful children with him. According to the pastor, her life growing up in Nakuru County in Kenya was hard and traumatic. Her mother became ill and died while she was still young and she only later found out that her mother had died of AIDS.

After her mother died, Lucy decided to leave to the capital, Nairobi to ‘hustle’ and admits that at the tender age of 17 years she was already with a man and living the ‘married’ life. She tried to get married on four different occasions all of which were unsuccessful but resulted in the birth of her first son, whom she left with her sister and grandmother in the village to fend for.

According to Thuo, her struggle in the city had her scouting for men and always in search of the man with the most money at any point in time. She admits that at one point she had about three boyfriends, always looking for the one with more money. After a while, she met someone who became her husband to this day and after seven months of being together, they took the decision to live as husband and wife.

Diagnosis of HIV

As a young woman, it had crossed Lucy Nyawira’s mind that she might have the virus due to the several partners she had before her marriage and also the diagnosis of her mother.

It wasn’t until she got pregnant for her husband in 2005, that she found out she indeed had the virus.

Pastor Lucy Thuo Nyawira

“I tested positive after tests during a prenatal clinic and I was scared to death. When I got home I thought about the baby in my womb and even my husband’s life, but not being ready to break the ice about my condition, I told myself in my heart that if my husband was to find out about his HIV status then it should not be from me. I hid my HIV positive status for seven years from my husband,” Pastor Lucy Nyawira Thuo said.

The stigma associated with the virus plunged her into depression – and she was unable at first to tell anyone about her situation.

Even at the hospital after the birth of her child, Lucy was advised not to breastfeed her baby but due to the fear of her secret being known to friends and family, she went ahead to breastfeed her child against advice. But 7 years later, her son became very ill and they all had to go to the hospital for tests.

It was then that, her husband and their son were tested for HIV. Lucy was diagnosed with HIV and says she was very relieved to discover that her son and husband were negative.

“Something strange really happened. My husband did not talk about it when we got home. He did not ask me how I was HIV positive. He was very quiet about it. Life went on as I took antiretroviral drugs every day.” Lucy recalls.

According to Lucy Nyawira, she was grateful he agreed to stay in the marriage, yet they did not talk about her diagnosis as a family, it seemed they were all in denial.

However, by this time she had opened up to her church leaders – and this helped her accept her HIV status and influenced her decision to become a pastor herself. After marrying her husband, Lucy began a life of personal piety, with the goal of understanding where her life was headed and also following religious studies with the goal of becoming a pastor. She has been leading meetings and counselling people living with HIV. It also emboldened her to eventually open up to her wider family.

With their acceptance, she then went public with her status – and for the last two years has been touring churches and other forums to speak about her experience.

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