The woman who never was
-Dying of AIDS after a life of drugs, a street woman’s only wish is for her infected son to get better By Iana Seales
Stabroek News
October 14, 2003

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The stunted figure of a woman clad in rags crouches on the pavement in Regent Street. Through loud sobs she looks up and says, “A begging fuh a help sista, me son in de hospital with AIDS, I got it too, an ah hungry.”

After wiping away tears she gets up. Covered from head to toe in sores she stands a considerable distance away and says “I ain’t gon come near you child, all ah wan is a small change.”

The woman accepts the money and remarks that people seldom show her kindness. After making her way to Stabroek News she sits and shares her tale of how she ended up on the streets and became infected with HIV/AIDS.

Looking to be in her mid-forties the frail woman said she was actually born 27 years ago and lived in Sussex Street, Georgetown with her parents. Having suffered constant abuse at the hands of her father, she left home and took to the streets at the age of ten. A few months later she was introduced to cannabis.

She said her early years on the streets were spent at ‘Berlin’ a junkyard a stone’s throw away from the La Penitence market. The yard became her home for several years until she met her baby’s father.

The woman recalled doing odd chores to earn an honest living, from cleaning septic tanks, washing vehicles and weeding. Then came jobs to run errands. She said offers came rolling in and one day she was offered a little more to sell drugs. Business was good and life was going well for her.

She said her mixed heritage had made her a hit with the men and soon she was courting ‘decent’ men. She recalled spending time in Berbice where she met a male friend who smoked cocaine. Soon she was smoking cocaine too and lost her job selling the drugs after she smoked all that she was contracted to sell.

Back at ‘Berlin’ she was scraping for whatever cocaine she could find and did anything to get it. Prostitution was the only means that provided the money for the drugs and she was soon selling her body. Then she met her ‘child father’. She recalled he had gone into the yard one day to purchase a pack and saw her.

She described him as a “prized catch”. A well toned body, olive brown complexion and dashing good looks. The man was a Trinidadian who was spending time in Guyana. She said he fell for her beauty and soon they were a couple.

They did everything together including smoke. After she became pregnant she found out that the man had a wife and children in Trinidad. He later left Guyana when she confronted him and she never heard from him again.

She recalled going into the hospital with a black plastic bag and one pair of battered rubber slippers on her feet to give birth and was mistaken for a mad woman. With nowhere to go and nothing to call her own, she left the hospital with her baby. Her older sister later found her and took her in, on the condition that she was going to change.

The woman said she was clean for seven months and was taking care of her son. Then the hospital contacted her and broke the news of her son’s infection. Both mother and baby were HIV positive. She left her sister’s home, took the baby to the hospital and returned to the streets and a life of smoking.

A few months later her health started to deteriorate and she sought help at the GUM clinic. The woman said her son was being treated and responding well. Doctors are optimistic that the child might live longer than expected.

The woman said that if she was granted one wish she would go back to school. Having left early she can only recognise a few words and read simple books. She said that she was no nitwit since living on the road made her street wise.

She said AIDS had opened her eyes and made her see people differently. People abused and shunned her whenever she approached them and begged for assistance. She explained that the disease made her an outcast in her own country and a complete stranger to her family.

“They does pass me all de time an na one word, if they could do dat anybody could do it”, she said referring to her family. She said that after being repulsed by her blood relatives she stayed away from people and only begged occasionally. She said death sometimes seemed a better alternative than the life she was living.

She said few people would stop and look in her direction, some offering a dollar if she begs whole-heartedly. The woman described herself as “a woman who never was”. She said she was denied almost everything, most importantly love. According to her, her son is the only person she has ever loved.

She said her days were numbered but that did not stop her from hoping. Hoping that her son will some day grow to be a fine man and make her proud. She said her dying wish was to hear him say the word “mama” just once.