Coffee date with Muluba - Living with HIV

Whenever you meet an activist; someone who utilizes their platform to be vocal about social issues that they are passionate about, you have a strong admiration for them. Muluba is a young woman, who has made her mark within the Canadian public health community because of her lived experiences. What is even more amazing about Muluba, is her confidence, bright smile, and humility to engage with everyone that she meets. We had the privilege of sitting down with Muluba to hear her story, in hope of changing the social dialogue in relation to living with HIV.

My name is Muluba, I am 24 years old. I was born in London, England, but my parents are originally from Zambia, Africa. I have been in Canada since I was 2 years old. Right now, I am a journalism student living in the greater Toronto area, going into my master’s studies. At the same time, I am doing freelancing and public speaking for various organizations that are related to HIV, because it is a cause that is close to my heart.
Q2. What lead you to focusing your career path on HIV?
My mom and dad came from Zambia, and moved to England. That’s when my dad became abusive, and when my mother was pregnant with their third baby, he pushed her down the stairs and that’s when she lost the baby. The doctor pretty much told her (my mom), if you do not pack your bags and leave this man, the next one to fall down the stairs and die could be you. So my mother packed up her bags, grabbed my sister and I, went to the airport with a one-way ticket to Canada with fake passports, because my father had locked up all of our legal documents.
While living in Ottawa for less than a year or so, back in 1995, I became terribly ill and the doctors could not figure out the cause of my illness. They ended up testing all three of us, and only my mother tested positive. About a week after that, the doctor called us back and said that they had made a mistake, it turns out, one of her children tested positive as well, that was me.

Luckily back in 1995, that was when the HIV drugs became widely available in Canada, even for those living on low-income. As a child, it was really hard growing up taking these medications and facing stigma within the community. I felt very different than my peers, at a very young age. Ten years later, my mother passed away while I was still a teenager.

Q3. What are some common and silly myths about HIV
People think that I need to cover my mouth when coughing, or else I will contaminate you, so people think that I have to cover my face with a mask daily. Or, people don’t know that, if my blood goes on the counter, the HIV is technically dead so it is no longer transmissible. People think that HIV is a ‘skinny man’ disease; I am a thick girl, so even HIV cannot get in the way of genetics.
Q4. How is your dating life, while living with HIV? Are you afraid to disclose your HIV status when getting intimate with a partner?
Once I disclosed my HIV status on YouTube, I became a bit more confident in being transparent with a guy upfront. I also give guys the time to process the news, and let them seat on it, because it is a lot to handle at first. The most surprising has been that, a lot of guys are just curious and like to ask questions about my health. I do find that older men are more confident in understanding my health, because they’re often more mature and secure.
Q5. What is next for Muluba? What are your long-term goals?
After completing my master’s degree, I would like to pursue my PhD. I have a few offers already, so I am optimistic on that. I would love to someday have my own TV show. Luckily our generation can start things off on our own, with platforms like Youtube and blogs. I am starting my own blog and Youtube channel, to reach a larger audience that is not only within Canada, but also globally. Lastly, I would like to continue travelling the world, to hear other people’s stories, and help them share their stories.
Q6. What are practices and rituals you practice for your wellness?
I am an introvert, so I get my energy from my alone time. I have learnt to be ok with spending an entire day with myself in my apartment, because my alone time is where I get most of my energy. I love reading books, waking up late, I take it day by day to continuously learn about myself.

One thing that I learnt through therapy, after my mom died, was acknowledging my feelings and being ok with that. Sometimes it is ok to admit that I am feeling sad right now, and I need time to myself. I also feel like for Black women, we feel like it is a bad thing to be angry, because of ‘the angry black women tag’, but it is ok sometimes to feel that way.

Q7. What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Resilient, communication, introvert.  To tell the truth, I  just want to say ‘Muluba, Muluba, Muluba!’

For more on Muluba, check her out here and here and here !!!

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