I used to have AIDS, but I don’t anymore!

Astrid Johnson speaks to Jody Boshoff about having had HIV for 17 years, and about her subsequent healing and marriage. She speaks candidly about love, suffering and her faith in the impossible that caused her recovery …

“I got married when I was 32 to a Christian man with the same beliefs that I had. We spent eight years together before he became gravely ill. He just wouldn’t recover, and his body became weaker and weaker. Eventually, the doctors decided to run tests for Hepatitis B, HIV and other serious illnesses. The results came back, and they were positive.” Shortly afterwards, Astrid was also tested and discovered that she too had HIV.

“He had been infected before we met, and was not unfaithful to me,” she explains. Looking back, she realises that she did get very severe flu symptoms that wouldn’t clear shortly after being married. “At the time, I just believed that I would get well and tried not to notice. I was devastated at the news, especially because I had kept myself pure for marriage and had lived a Godly life,” she says. “Two months after we received the results of the tests, my husband passed away. His last words to me were ones of comfort and reassurance that I would be okay and that I would one day love again. He had left me a widow, with three young children to bring up alone. I realised the challenge I faced as a single mom with a two-, four- and six-year-old to care for. I never doubted, though, that God’s love would see me through…”

Astrid says she remembers thinking to herself: “What’s worse, being a widow, or being HIV positive?” The only thing that kept her going at the time was reading her Bible and trusting that she wouldn’t face complete destruction. She kept a ‘healing book’ of encouraging Bible verses and became determined not to give up or give in to what she was feeling. After just five years, her late husband’s predictions came true and she met a wonderful man. “When I pictured my life many years ago, I always wished for five children – and now that has been made possible. His two daughters are like my very own and I have a deep love for them and their husbands.”

It was difficult to tell the new man in her life about her condition, but the relationship progressed quickly, and Astrid felt she had to disclose her status because she was falling in love with him. “I remember telling him as clearly as if it were yesterday. He cried with me and told me that he could not believe something this terrible had happened to a good woman. He told me that he would be there for me, and a few moments later, asked me to marry him! It was a miracle! God had sent me a man to love not only me, but my three children as if they were his flesh and blood. I was overjoyed and overwhelmed.”

Right from the start, they believed together that she would be healed. Their marriage was a step of faith and was even more special because of their united belief. “Since discovering my status, I had been believing that I wouldn’t die without experiencing a life free from the virus. I had been to Bible school and spent time meditating on God’s positive words. I knew that I needed to visit and be around people who would believe with me that my body would not give in.” Astrid’s three children were all tested for the virus and all showed up negative. This was a sign to her that made her even more convinced that she was destined to live a long life with and for them, and was no small miracle, as she had breast-fed them all as babies.

“Since the beginning of 2006, I felt constantly exhausted and over-tired, although I had been sleeping enough and well. I experienced a great drop in my immunity which was getting lower and lower. I developed chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, coughing, colds and flu. My hair had been falling out and my skin was terribly dry.” Her energy levels dropped lower and lower as the months went by. She became incontinent and even manifested signs of Alzheimer’s. She had amnesia which lasted four months, and still can’t recall what occurred at that stage. She couldn’t write or read and driving was an impossibility. “If I picked up a spoon, it felt like lead,” she recalls, “But at no time did I allow myself to become bitter or lose hope. I recognised that the fact that I was still alive after 17 years of having the virus in my body was miraculous. I remember going to a friend’s house and having him picking me up and say ‘You will not die’, with true belief in the miracle I needed …”

The prayers of hundreds of people strengthened her and everyone believed with her that God would do a miracle. “At one stage, I was given only two days to live, and my family from Piet Retief came to say goodbye. I don’t recall any of this at all. In fact, it’s a huge relief that I can’t remember any of the suffering or pain I went through,” she says.

On the 20th of January she started with medication to combat the virus. She did this along with believing God that he could heal her, and it was this that marked the turning point of her illness. Within a week and a half she began to revive rapidly. “I had no bronchitis or coughing, rashes on my legs, big red bumps on my face, incontinence or allergies. I could write again, drive a car again and use my voice to rejoice. I could recognise people and even went back to my school in the second term to teach again. I had renewed stamina, energy and strength.”

Astrid experienced the ultimate victory of healing on Saturday 22nd of July 2007 when blood tests showed that the HIV virus that had been in her body was completely undetectable. It wasn’t present any more!

“The joy I feel is indescribable! I am grateful to God for the miracle He has done. I am soon going off my medication and now live totally free of disease. What good is it if we serve a God who can’t heal us? I’m a walking miracle and proof that the biggest dream is not too big to be realised …”

Astrid Johnson recently released her story in book format. He sent His Word and healed me (ISBN: 978-0-629=42560-5) is a story about her journey from sickness to health, and from near death to life, in an unbelievable tale of how she stood up and overcame through faith…