At the funeral of her husband, she cried for her son who had just lost a father, for her widowed life without a husband, and for all her bitterness at the man whose life of self-indulgence had got himself infected with HIV/AIDS and then gave it to her.
Tran Thi Hue guides her son to pronounce words Photo: Tuoi Tre
Tran Thi Hue, 27, said she could never forget the moment she left a laboratory in Hanoi five years ago, knowing she was HIV positive.
Enraged at her husband, who later admitted that he had sex with street girls during the time he spent working away from home, Hue decided upon knowing the test result to leave him there and then and never come back. “But after riding my bike for a while, I felt I couldn’t do such a thing to him and came back to the hospital to pick him up and ride home with him,” she explained.
She wept a lot during the road home and the more love and worry she felt for the newborn child, the angrier she became at the husband.
Rising above circumstances
She met her husband in Hanoi, where they had come in search of a better life, and in 2001 they married. His work often took him away from home, and when he was away, she stayed behind in home village in the northern province of Ha Nam to take care of the first child while pregnant with the second. Their family’s life would have been normal like all others’ if the test result had not showed that she and her newborn baby had both been infected with HIV from her husband.
Traumatized, Hue lay in bed for days in melancholy and pain. Her heart was stricken with grief for her baby son. On the day her parents took her back home so they could care for her, her father told her, “Your mom and I will do anything for you, but we can do nothing to get the illness out of you.” His voice was shaking and Hue saw his eyes were filled with tears.
Hue’s father assumed the care for both Hue and her child. There were nights she heard her father tossing and turning in his bed and weeping quietly. So touched with the love her father had for her and her child, Hue decided she had to be strong to overcome the fear of having HIV and to go on living a positive life.
In October 2007, Hue went to Ho Chi Minh City and rented a room in Thu Duc District. She made ends meet by working as a hawker of balloons. Every day, she sold balloons in front of schools, supermarkets, and cultural centers, among many other places. She later brought her husband and the second child to the city so she could personally take care of them.
She tried to work hard to support her family and buy medicines, costing VND500,000 (US$25) – 1,200,000 per month, for her husband. There were times when she had a cold or a fever but she refused to buy medicines for herself. She always thought that if her husband could have one more day to live, her young child would have his father for one more day.
In 2008 her husband died. Since then, she could never think about the deceased husband without bursting into tears. She said, “The most painful thing to me was that he did not make any apologies for transmitting HIV to me and the son.”
Two lost souls found their way home
Continuing a positive life, Hue volunteered to work as a HIV/AIDS peer educator for high-risk groups of women in her native land of Ha Nam. During a 5-day training course on presentation skills in Hanoi, she met Nguyen Hong Nghia, a former drug addict with HIV. One day during lunch, she called him “Em” (a Vietnamese word people use to address those who are about the age of their younger sisters or brothers) without knowing that he is one year older than her. Some chemistry seemed to have been sparked between, and the two became interested in each other.
Completing the course, Hue returned to Ho Chi Minh City and continued hawking balloons for a living. She felt less lonely than before, since she often received phone calls from Nghia, who realized that for the first time his life could take on a different meaning after he met Hue. He enjoyed talking with her on phone, and in listening to her life stories, he could feel her suffering and empathize with her longing for the eldest child she still left behind in the north.
Nghia’s mother, Nguyen Thi Kim Tinh, reminisced that Nghia sometimes talked with Hue on phone until midnight and that she was very happy to know his son eventually found love.
Not long after the course ended, Nghia told his mother about his intention to go to HCMC to meet Hue, because talking to her on the phone could no longer satisfy his burning heart. The mother agreed with her son’s decision and had complete trust in his determination to embark on a new journey to start a new life.
After coming to the city, Nghia stayed in District 8, while Hue was then living in Go Vap District. Every day, they sold balloons on the streets and in many public places across the city. It was the first time that Nghia, a prodigal son from a wealthy family, earned a living by such a job. The love between them continued to grow stronger over time and they finally decided to live under the same roof.
In January 2010, Nghia took his lover home to meet his mother, who later rented a small room for the couple and bought them some necessary furniture and other houseware items. She also gave Hue a sum of money and thanked Hue for her love for her son, who she had never thought could one day find such happiness.
Hue recalled, “My mother-in-law said she gave us some money to help us pay the house rent. She also asked me to take my first son, Tran Duc Anh, who was born dumb and deaf, to HCMC so he can study in a suitable school.”
The couple has since lived a happy life. Hue continues to be a volunteer in projects to support HIV/AIDS patients while her husband works as a construction worker. Their home has become a venue for HIV-infected people who come for advice and consultation.
Anh, now 8 years old, is studying at a primary school. Grandma Tinh picks up him after class every afternoon. In her spare time, she takes her grandson for a walk. Every evening, she and Hue help Anh learn to speak, one word at a time. Hue feels her heart swelling with warm feelings whenever she sees her son playing happily with his grandmother.
(To be continued)