Backline fires in crushing win
She had sheets burnt after she slept in them, was told she would die, was told she would live, and was part of a historic trial against the man who gave her HIV.
On Friday, Marama Mullen-Tamati had a badge pinned on her chest and was told by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy that she was an inspiration.
Mullen-Tamati, advocate, activist and educator for people living with HIV and Aids, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit at Government House in Wellington.
Now Mullen-Tamati has shared her memories of living with a death sentence, gaining freedom through extraordinary medical advances, and the stranger who changed her life forever.
In 1993 when Mullen-Tamati was 22, Kenyan musician PeterMwai spotted her in the crowd and made a ‘‘beeline’’ for her in theWaikanae Hotel on the Kapiti Coast.
For the first and only time in her life, she had a one-night stand.
Later that yearMwai was the first person in New Zealand to be prosecuted for deliberately infecting sexual partners, including MullenTamati, with HIV.
Mwai was intelligent, and in the few conversations they had, keenly aware of the contrast between suffering in places like New Zealand and the developing world, Mullen-Tamati said.
‘‘I think he wanted a nice, rich Western country like ours to experience what was going on in his country ... he wanted us to know what it felt like. I just ended up being a casualty of that.’’
Over the years people have burned sheets after Mullen-Tamati slept on them, dumped cups and plates after she ate from them, and accused her children of having Aids.
She was given a life-expectancy of 10 years and spent seven of them ‘‘living to die’’, without medication because there wasn’t any. She could not have children without infecting them.
In 1999 Mullen-Tamati was given new anti-retroviral medicines that suppressed the disease, let her live a full life, and have children without HIV.
She has gone further than she ever dreamed. For the first 12 years of life with HIV she ‘‘lived in denial’’, hoping to keep her head down and lead a normal life.
‘‘But I saw some injustices, particularly with Maori, and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, I suppose.’’
The woman who at 22 wanted nothing more than a husband, kids and life as a housewife in Kapiti has spoken to the United Nations in New York and worked around the world.
Mwai was convicted and sentenced to seven years’ prison for having unprotected sex with five women, and infecting two.
He died from tuberculosis in Africa after his deportation in 1998.
When Mullen-Tamati heard that the man who gave her HIV was dead, she didn’t feel hate or anger.
You have to have loved somebody to hate them, she said, you have to have a connection.
‘‘I saw some injustices, particularly with Maori, and I couldn't keep my mouth shut.’’
Marama Mullen-Tamati Marama Mullen-Tamati on Waikanae Beach and, inset, with Governor General Patsy Reddy in Government House.