Rhoda's husband left her deaf and with a diagnosis of HIV after abuse
Rhoda has been left with no hearing in one ear due to the blows she used to receive on a regular basis from her husband and unknown to her, his infidelity led to them both contracting HIV.
Rhoda arrived in England from her native Zimbabwe 40 years ago to train as a nurse. A mental health nurse from Luton in Bedfordshire, she discovered in 2001 that she was HIV positive, together with her husband. To make matters worse, he left to go back to Africa, leaving Rhoda to bring up their twin daughters, then aged just 13, on her own.
"He just left us, me and the children, and went back to Zimbabwe. He left me with twin girls, just turned 13, and it was really devastating. I was very ill, and was in hospital for a month, but he also left me in a terrible mess of debt. It was a terrible time.
"I was living with HIV, had hearing problems and then I was made homeless because of the debt I was in.
"For me, it was good when he went back to Zimbabwe because at least I knew I was safe from him. I am now deaf in one ear because he used to hit me. He was a drunkard and a very suspicious man. He would clear off for up to 10 days and when I would ask him where he'd been he would hit me.”
Her husband, a panel beater by trade, was not even looking for a job when they arrived in the UK and just expected he could live off Rhoda. She kept on working shift after shift while her husband just drew her down.
"Following my illness, our house was repossessed because of the debt so I was left homeless. But at least we can thank God that there was someone who could help us."
Rhoda, who was homeless, with young children, coping with her HIV diagnosis and struggling to get by on incapacity benefit, was fortunately put in touch with Cavell Nurses' Trust. Our team went through her income and expenditure and advised her on further support she could receive. We also provided her with a single grant to pay for essential items followed by a second grant to help pay for a washing machine and tumble dryer, and a grant to purchase a cooker. As her situation was so desperate when Rhoda was referred, we have been providing a weekly grant to help her with living costs.
"The support from Cavell has been really helpful. I'm not able to work but I know I can live with the help of this grant. Right now I am picking myself up. I don't want anyone to go through what I went through. And I would advise any woman to get themselves screened for HIV."
Rhoda has, in fact, used her own painful experience to obtain a certificate in community volunteering with a local HIV support agency so she can support other people affected by the virus in her community.