I want to talk.
I want to let out a scream that wakes everyone up.

My name is Khadra.
I’m 33 and I’m a middle school dropout,
But I don’t know how to read or write.
My parents passed away, and I have three kids:
Basma, Dina, and Amr.
My husband passed away too.

I got married 17 years ago.
My husband used to work at a ful cart.
The first time I saw him,
My sister-in-law and I had gone to fill water buckets.
He went and stood behind her while she was bending over.
I told him to go away, but he didn’t.
He said, “I am not moving; beauty deserves appreciation.”
I hit him with a wooden plank and ran.

My father had taught me to defend myself,
Because we live in a terrible area,
And he was an old man.
After I hit him,
He insisted on marrying me.
I didn’t love him at first,
But my father said that “Marriage preserves a girl’s reputation.”

We stayed in a room at his mother’s.
My sister-in-law lived in one room,
And I lived in another.
The circumstances were terrible.
For 11 years, I would handwash all of the laundry.
Around 8 years ago,
His breath started smelling rancid,
And he had mild diarrhea,
Which would come and go.
We went to a lot of doctors,
But no one knew what was wrong.
A doctor in a small clinic in Mahata st. in Giza,
Was the one who diagnosed him.
My husband didn’t believe him,
“The stupid doctor says I have AIDS!”

All I knew about the disease,
Was what I used to hear them say on TV.
“Beware of AIDS. Beware of AIDS.”
I just knew it was dangerous.
They didn’t say what its symptoms were,
Or how people contracted it.
When my husband told me what the doctor told him,
I was so scared for the kids,
Could it be transmitted to them?

After that, my husband started acting crazy.
He became aggressive with me,
He started beating me,
And sleeping with me more than usual, by force.
Especially from behind,
And I used to bleed.
I’d tell him I didn’t want to.
He'd refuse and tell me that he enjoyed it that way.
He used to take sex enhancement drugs.
Soon all we had was anal sex.
This lasted for over a year,
In addition to a lot of beating and abuse.
Then he became very weak,
And things happened with less frequency.
It was as if he grew 100 years.

The doctor in Giza had told him to go to the central labs.
He went a year later,
When he became so weak,
And his breath smelled like a dead dog,
Even the kids wouldn’t let him kiss them.

When he went to the lab to get tested,
He was told to go to take the results and go to the 7th floor at the ministry.
He told me that it was the cancer floor,
And that when he went there they told him,
“You have cancer, bring your wife and kids,
So we can make sure that they don’t have it too.”

We went on the same day and got tested.
Someone in the lab ran the test on me,
With a surgical mask over his mouth and gloves on his hands.
No one talked to us before the tests,
And we didn’t understand anything going on.
I heard them saying “HIV.”
I asked a doctor who was passing in the corridor, “What does it mean?”
He told me, “It means it’s a malignant disease”.

The doctor asked me with misty eyes,
“Do you know what your husband has?”
“What?” I asked,
“He has AIDS,” he replied.
“Do I have it too? Even if I do, thank God for everything.”
When I learned the kids were fine,
I fell to my knees and kissed the ground.
I thanked God.
“Would you like to get a divorce, Khadra?” the doctor asked me.
“What about my kids?” I asked,
“No, let’s just leave things as they are.
Either I bury him, or he buries me.”
This was around 3 or 4 years ago.

My husband started getting really sick,
And he started losing his mind too.
He’d take the kids’ stuff and hide them for himself.
He’d also shit himself,
And when I shouted at him,
His responses were child-like:
That he wasn’t able to hold it, or that he wouldn’t do it again.
There weren't any medications back then.
He used to take painkillers and antibiotics,
But they didn’t do anything.

His brother used to give him stolen phones to sell.
One time he got caught and they locked him in Omraneyah Prison.
He asked his brother for 50 pounds to bribe the officers so they’d let him go,
But his brother refused.
I used to ask about him in prison.
Two weeks after he was imprisoned,
They told me that he was sleeping on the bathroom floor all the time,
That he burned all his clothes, and that he was naked.
I tried my utmost to visit him, but I couldn’t.
The officers leered at me.
One of them told me, “Come, step into this room with me to talk about it first,
Then you can visit your husband.”
They wanted me.
So I told them, “I have AIDS, and my husband, too, has AIDS,
Do you still want to talk to me?’
“Get out! Get out before I lock you up too.”
Two months later, my husband passed away.

My siblings stopped paying me visits,
And they stayed away from me when they found out.
When I visit them, they receive me differently, and treat me differently.
They don’t welcome us, and they don’t shake my hands.
Only my mother visits,
But even she refused to drink so much as water,
Unless I washed the glass in front of her.

I kept visiting my siblings,
And I brought them books to raise their awareness.
I was bitter that they were scared of me,
And I knew that it bothered them when I visited them.
Why were they scared of me?
Only a few of my neighbors know,
And some of them avoided me from the get-go,
Because they’re scared it was contagious.
The kids were in terrible emotional states.
They were forced to hide it at school,
And if I tried to talk about AIDS, my daughter Basma made me shut up.

I talk about the disease to raise awareness,
And so that people would know what I was going through.

My father-in-law was a good person.
He registered the apartment we were living in in the kids’ names,
Gave me custody of the children,
And deposited 6,000 pounds for the kids in an account.
The problem is that my brother’s sister and my brother-in-law and his wife live in the house.
After my father-in-law passed,
They had all planned to kick me out of the house.

I’m scared of going to doctors after what happened to me at the fever hospital.
I was sick and had diarrhea,
So I went to the Abasseya fever hospital.
It was the worst day of my life
The nurse giving me the injection was scared and terrified of me,
And then she told me to “take all the bedsheets and wash them.”
She gave me detergent and I washed them.
I stayed until sunset washing them,
And she made me clean my room and Ahmed’s, my colleague’s, room.
When he threw up again,
She told me to go clean him up.
“You’re sick like he is.
I hope you both die, so we’re rid of you.”
All hospitals are like that,
One time I went to a pulmonologist,
Because I have a chest cold.
He was terrified when I told him I had AIDS,
Like I was the angel of death or something.
He refused to examine me.
He told the nurses to escort me outside,
And gave me a prescription without examining me.

My in-laws mistreat and assault me.
They’ve put their adult children on my case,
And they heckle my children and I all the time.
They tell me I have AIDS because I’m sleeping around,
And because I’ve turned my home into a whore house.
I filed several restraining orders,
To no avail.
When I went to the police station to complain,
My brother-in-law followed me and caused a commotion.
He told them I had AIDS.
A police officer grabbed my shoulder and dragged me into a cell.
The kids were with me,
And he jailed them too.
I bribed them so they’d let us out.

One time,
On my way up,
They ambushed me,
Grabbed me,
And tried to force me to sign over the apartment to them.
They hit me with a stick,
And injured me with blades.
They cursed and hit me.
They only let go,
When I started to spray them with the blood that was flowing out of my wounds.
They got scared,
And let me go.
I want to talk.
I want to let out a scream that wakes everyone up.

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