The first thing I noticed about Beth when I walked into her butcher shop was the poufy blue thing on her head with a white furry base. It looked very much like a crown. She was also wearing what I’m fairly certain was a cape. I was in the presence of a queen. All she needed was her sceptre, though perhaps that’s what the butcher knife was for.
Beth certainly has the strength and confidence of a queen. She rediscovered those traits in herself thanks to the help of LPK.
Beth lost her husband to AIDS in 1997, leaving her to raise their 2-year old daughter on her own. She didn’t know her husband was HIV Positive, though his family knew. Despite being sick and weak all the time, she didn’t know of her own HIV Positive status either.
His family soon recommended she and her daughter get tested. Even though the results came back negative, the family knew she was positive, and so they started isolating her. They would cut the clothesline when she left clothes drying outside. They planted potatoes in the floor of the unfinished house her husband had been building for them. This was their way of telling her to get out. Even her church chased her away.
Beth moved to Ngong and found work as a barmaid. She worked here long enough to save enough capital for a business, went back to pick up her things and her daughter, and settled in Ngong.
Fighting against a weakened immune system, Beth got tested again and found she had Tuberculosis. At her brother’s insistence, she asked for yet another test and, sure enough, she was HIV Positive as well. Thankfully, her daughter, who was breastfeeding at the time, tested negative.
A friend introduced her to LPK, and it forever changed her life. “Before I joined LPK, I didn’t have hope in life. I used to drink a lot.” she says. “But the moment I stepped into LPK’s office and joined the support group, I felt a light in me. I felt encouragement from other women, the Director, and the staff. When you are alone, people point fingers at you because you have HIV and AIDS, and you feel diminished. But in LPK, we became a family. Even if they point at you, when you are in a support group, you share that ordeal with the group, and they tell you, ‘Don’t worry. It shall be well.'”
The support group and WEEP provided food and a place to learn, love, laugh, pray, sing, and most importantly, heal. Beth learned to be strong and resilient. She learned about the importance of adhering to medication instructions. She learned to open up her own business. She learned to stand proudly on her own two feet and provide for her family with a successful butcher shop. “I am lacking words to explain what I can call LPK,” she says. LPK helped make her wildest dreams come true.
Beth also learned to forgive her husband’s family, and eventually reconnected with them. “When I went to LPK, I also learned to forgive. And as I forgave, my husband’s family came to look for me. They begged me to go back. If I had not forgiven them, they would not have come. I would never have gotten to shake their hands.”
As a testament to just how far she has come, Beth now acts as an ambassador for HIV and AIDS, openly discussing her status and her use of medication, and even encouraging others to get tested.
She is regal in every sense of the word.