Kenya Aids couple find love against the odds

Shunned by peers, Aids sufferers in Mombassa struggle to survive in society after becoming carriers, but here love wins in the face of adversity…

 They are normally stigmatised in Africa.
Condemned, and regarded as hopeless, they are not supposed to live happily again.

They are the HIV positive in Africa.

But all this changed one morning in April...

For Fatuma Abdi, everything in life came to a stop when she was diagnosed as HIV positive at only 26 years of age.

Fatuma hails from Likoni, a poor suburb in Mombassa, on the coast of Kenya, East Africa.

For a long time, she had been self-dependent, much admired in her society and above all, an icon of success in the Likoni area.

Then she found herself in a terrible situation. She became confused, friends deserted her and her situation got worse.

That was in February 2001.

By January 2004, her body weight had fallen to 30Kg from 70Kg.

 Fatuma, now 31, started using prescribed retrovirals and soon the sun started shining in her life again.

On 6 June 2004, she encountered a man who would change her life forever, and give her something to smile about.

"When I saw him, I could sense he had genuine compassion and felt for me," Fatuma says. "He was very different. Up until then, people would just look at me and mock me".

Shaban Rajab was an athlete in the Municipal Council of Mombassa relay team during his heyday.

He remembers: "It was a chapter in my life I would not easily like to forget. The cheers and applause".

Now at 45 he is also HIV positive, something he initially felt pain about, but with time has overcome.

He was diagnosed with the virus back in October 1999.

On 6 June he went to collect his monthly retroviral ration from the local clinic when he met Fatuma, and instantly, the spirit of love he had kept under lock and key, stirred.

Rajab immediately found love with Fatuma. He associated himself with her condition.

"A tear came from my eye before I got hold of myself. She was heavenly, even in her condition," he pauses, perhaps to let the memory linger for another precious second in his memory, "her eyes were open, truthful and... scared."

According to the doctor who witnessed this event, he had never seen anything like it before.

Dr Edward Kombe of Mombasa's HIV clinic recounts: "The spark was there. They were both my patients, and had never met one another before, until then. I could feel the fire between them, and I immediately realised what love is."

Fatuma and Rajab were married in a massive wedding ceremony in Likoni on 2 April 2005.

They shocked Kenya, and East Africa in general, by taking the decision to wed.

"I believe God is presenting us with a chance to discover real love," says Fatuma.

Fatuma does not want to look back now, she is content with the life she now has, and dispels all claims that theirs is just a marriage of convenience.

The couple now live in a two-bedroom house, and their health has rapidly improved since their wedding.