For many, the acronym HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) may be a death sentence, and rightly so. But for KoHsin Illingworth, it has taken a new meaning, which will unfold as you continue to walk with us in this story.
Kohsin tell us about your childhood. How was it like growing up?
I grew up in a financially stable home, alongside my brother. As kids we were competitive. As every young girl, I had my ambitions, plans and dreams for her future. My parents were bankers who paid keen attention to the physical, academic, and financial pieces of my life. However as with most parents, that was at the cost of being emotionally available for their daughter. Interesting, I found Jesus on my own even though I was born into a Buddhist home. I got baptized, which was a public confession of my faith. I had my insecurities growing up. These insecurities and the vacuum left by the emotional and mental neglect of my parents fueled her insecurities and motivated me to seek solace elsewhere.
When did you relocate to the UK and for what?
After my undergraduate degree in Taiwan, I eventually relocated from the Uk to pursue a Master’s in commerce at the
How was life in the UK for you as a newcomer?
I thought I had found this new level of freedom. I would be hopping from party to party, engaging in one-night stands etc. I was at a party one night where I was raped. I was drunk but I still remember that experience and how my body was violated that night. A few years later, I met and married my lovely husband. Everything was going on well, for a young couple. Until I started falling ill and the doctors couldn’t diagnose what was wrong with my body. I was committed even to the mental institutions because she was diagnosed with clinical depression and maniac episodes. One fateful night, I lost consciousness, collapsed, and had to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance. The doctors at the point, at their wits end decided to test for HIV/AIDS. The tests came out positive. The Doctors mentioned this was contracted about 6 or 7 years ago, and had develop into a full-blown AIDS, which was gradually killing me.
At this point Kohsin, finding out that you have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, from rape, if you could go back in time to speak to your younger self then, what would you tell her?
I would say to her be careful about your association. If you find yourself in the wrong crowd, it is easier to land in darkness. Be wise, especially as a woman. Having one-night stands wasn’t wise of me. Don’t be careless and take care of yourself.
What was your initial reaction after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS?
Prior to the diagnosis, I did not have any HIV/AIDS awareness but only knew the diagnosis was fatal. Especially when the nurses would constantly remind me “Mrs. Illingworth, we are doing our possible best to save your life.” I also observed my husband howling and crying, and that was also an indication of how bad it was. I would eventually contemplate suicide by overdosing on her medication.
How did this impact your marriage and family?
It impacted my husband a lot. He had a front row seat to my illness. He was also eventually diagnosed with HIV. Imagine a young couple who married in their early 30’s and a year later, I am dying with Aids and my husband is diagnosed with HIV. He may have been in a better situation than me, but it was still bad. My husband would still visit me in the hospital daily even though he was going through his own trials at the time.
Let’s talk about the healing process. We have talked so much about the painful past and how you came to realize your diagnosis let’s get into the good stuff.
When I was in the hospital even though I was physically weak I found some inner strength and I believe it was the power of God that came over me. I started praying just in the little way that I could. Prior to being diagnosed or even prior to marrying my husband I had completely left the place of fellowship with God. It wasn’t until one day when I had left the hospital, I heard God’s voice clearly speak to me saying that KoHsin am waiting for you to come home. I looked around trying to see if there was anyone next to me who had spoken those words to me but there was no one around me. I was alone and I heard the voice clearly speak to me that I’m waiting for you to come home.
After I heard that that voice I jumped into a taxi, and I went straight to a Baptist Church. Once I got into the church, I narrated my whole experience to the people, and they were kind and loving enough to welcome me into fellowship into their community and just show me the love of God. And this is how my healing process began because I went back to my father’s house and the warmth, the love, the embrace, that I experienced from the people but most importantly from God was word started my healing journey.
I also had to learn to forgive myself for the mistakes of my past. I had to forgive myself because I had constantly blamed myself thinking that if I hadn’t attended that party that evening I would not have been raped and I would not have contracted the HIV/AIDS. But I came to the place where I knew that to accept God’s forgiveness for me, I had to forgive the man that raped me, I had to forgive myself and I had to accept the forgiveness that I know was in God.
Additionally, I also sought counselling with the Christian Counsellors and that really helped put my marriage with my wonderful husband back on track.
At what point did you find out that you were in the process of getting physically healed from HIV/AIDS?
I was put on HIV antiretroviral medication. These medications were very effective to the extent that my HIV virus count dropped within a very short period from 25,000 to 0. While I believe in the efficiency of the medication, I also believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ and while I was even on medication, I would constantly pray asking God for my HIV virus counts to reduce drastically. It came to me as no shock when I found out after some months of being on the HIV medication that my stats had moved from thousands to zero, which is non detectable.
Let’s talk about the lives this story has touched. Then we’ll talk a bit about your ministry because I know that it was through this healing that you started your ministry healed in victory so we can also talk about that a bit.
I started having courage as I continued to pray to God praying to put something in me. I remember I went on a mission trip and that’s when I was told during coaching that Kohsin, you have a lot of emotional baggage, but you need to pray to God’s will to be done.
I continued to seek the face of God, even to allow me to conceive a baby. During Christmas at 2015, I gave birth to my daughter, Hannah. It was a difficult pregnancy as I was still HIV positive. I was under specialist care. I gave birth to a miracle child, Hannah, who was born without any trace of HIV in her body. That was the second miracle I experienced in this period of my life.
So, at this point, I knew I had to open and share my testimony with the world. At every given opportunity, every platform, every stage. God opened the door for me to go to go back to Taiwan, my home country where I was the first Taiwanese woman to go on live TV to share my story, from HIV to Christ. It was broadcast on Taiwan’s Christian channel, and it blessed so many lives. I received positive feedback and then that’s when I realized God is using my testimony to break the shame and stigma around HIV/AIDS.
The Taiwanese TV station was the first step to use to attend that healed in victory ministry is that correct
Yes, when I started to share my testimony the first one was broadcast from Taiwanese gospel channel and then from that I shared in Thailand. I also shared on so many channels, including BBC Radio. The platforms and opportunities to share are innumerable. Every opportunity I am presented with, I share to the end that many will believe in the healing power of God. To the world, HIV is a terminal disease with stigma, but in God, HIV means Healed in Victory.
I’m not ashamed to tell people that I was HIV. It took like 10 years through the restoration process to get healed. As such, we need to encourage people not to give up in believing that God can still heal.
Even as I hear you talk about healed in victory and you talking about your journey from HIV and everything, I believe that God did not only heal you from the physical debilitating effects of HIV. I feel like there was a real mental healing as well. Someone might think that I don’t have HIV, so this is not for me, or I don’t have a physical illness, so I don’t need God. But I believe that your story is such a wholesome healing experience. You got healed from many things like insecurity, mental illness and the trauma of rape.
Tell us about your book, Real Mums, Real Jesus.
As a new mother, and with my HIV status, I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter Hannah. Additionally, having her through caesarean session made me feel alienated to her. I didn’t have the instant maternal bond I thought I would have. Other struggles reared their head, and as I began to speak with other mothers, they related with my struggle. So, the book is a collection of experiences, written for mothers by mothers, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I said to God I said all those real moms’ stories if I didn’t put “Real Jesus” on the front it will probably reach to more audience because I want to use this book to help myself and help women and moms around the world. That was my initial initiative and my vision, but God really said to be put the real Jesus on the front cover and then put the word of God alongside them.
This book has been translated in Urdu for our community in Pakistan and, Swahili for our folks in Kenya. Pakistan, India, and Taiwan. We continue to receive tremendous testimonies on the book.
You can purchase a copy of the book by clicking this link.
Thanks for reading. Let Kohsin know how her story has inspired and ignited hope in you by leaving a comment.