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Her HIV status ignited love

WHEN Christine Katyeka was told she was HIV- positive, she underwent counselling to help her get over the situation.
From the counselling, she gained the help she needed, but much more she found a husband in the name of Danny Lungu, the counsellor and founder of a network for ARV users.
This marked the beginning of the story of Mr and Mrs Lungu of Mthendere township, a couple which has been living positively for over 12 years and have been to different countries to share their experience.
The two met in 2005 at Chainama Hills Hospital, where Mr Lungu is a counsellor. They got married on December 1, 2007.
“What attracted me to Christine was her status, so was I. I was looking for a partner who was HIV-positive. By then I had just lost my first wife,” said Mr Lungu.
In her case, Christine had just separated from her first husband and she had made up her mind to move on.
“I was also attracted to his status because I thought having a person who had the same status like me would make my situation better. Suppose I became ill?” said Mrs Lungu.
“We only have one child together and eight from our previous marriages. Three boys, five girls,” she said.
According to the couple, the reason they came out in the open about their status is because they wanted to get involved in the fight against HIV by educating people from their experiences.
“We have also appeared in different media platforms such as Radio Yatsani, Times of Zambia, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) radio one and two and also on television to share our experiences,” said Mr Lungu
Their decision to come out in the open had the blessings of both families and has seen the couple go to the USA and other countries in Africa.
“Our families have been supportive. We have even earned a good reputation such that if anyone in the family is not well, they send them to us to counsel them and find a way forward,” he said.
The Lungus believe any marriage can work as long as a partner is able to humble himself or herself even when they are not wrong. Communication is also key in a marriage.
“Marriage is just about understanding each other, when you are not getting along, one should reduce him or herself and play a fool. If it is not working, you can wait before you can talk about the matter that is causing the conflict,” said Mr Lungu.
The couple says there is no frequency on misunderstandings a couple can have. They say that it all depends on how they relate on a particular day.
“Misunderstandings can come at any time and anywhere. For a couple to avoid such, they need to sit down and iron out issues. We also underwent marriage and general counselling and that really helped us,” she said.
The couple also joined a group called Marriage Encounter as a way of learning how to communicate in their home.
“It’s a group that teaches us how to handle marital issues. We learn from each other’s experiences. One of the effective ways is by writing each other notes when we fight.
“If I have something to say to my husband and do not want to bring it out in person, I just write a note addressed to him and put it on the bedroom table. When he gets it, he will read and reply,” she said.
The Lungus also have time to go through what they write to each other together.
When one of them has a burning issue, the Lungus prefer to speak out because they believe that keeping something to oneself can cause more harm than when it is discharged.
And when it seems like the matter at hand is too much for them, they call marriage counsellors to help sort it out.
“The counsellors come to our aid before the matter gets to our parents,” he said.
The couple has advice for couples who intend to get married.
“The entry point into marriage for me is counselling and testing. You need to be open to the partner you are getting married to. It is not just a matter of saying can we go for VCT before we marry, if this happens then the 90-90-90 target will be achieved and HIV will be eradicated,” said Mr Lungu.
Mrs Lungu says couples that have not yet gone into marriage should try to find someone who will understand them for who they are.
“When positive people marry each other, there won’t be cases of new infections. Once you disclose each other’s status, you will know how to take care of yourselves to ensure long life,” she said.
The couple lives in Lusaka’s Mtendere township.

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