But after listening to others speak so passionately about the issue, she was “inspired.”Habanyama’s courage grew bolder.A week later, she recorded a 5-minute video, titled Feel No Shame, and posted it on You Tube.Habanyama is now a community health ambassador for the Toronto organization Women’s Health in Women’s Hands, which runs workshops on a variety of issues, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), sexually transmitted infections (STI) and healthy relationships.And, she’s a public speaker for the Network and has been invited to speak by other organizations, including the Ontario HIV Treatment Network.“I felt like a spear had been put in my stomach and then it was pulled out,” recalls the Mississauga woman.
But during a trip to Canada the reality of Habanyama’s illness became painfully apparent to her father. She was in mourning and at the same time angry with him for transmitting the virus and putting the family through difficult times.
“I had this one big secret that I felt like everybody would judge me on and I was very secluded from the world …
As a kid, you just want to be free, and a lot of the times I felt like a prisoner.”Habanyama remained in contact with her father — speaking with him by phone monthly — but their relationship was strained.
When Habanyama was about 7 years old, her Big Sister invited her to her home for dinner and insisted the girl use plastic plates, cups and utensils.
It was then the stigma of having HIV became glaringly evident to Habanyama.“Growing up was tough, it was lonely,” she says.