one woman’s story – LIVING with HIV & AIDS

About 12 years ago the husband of a woman – let’s call her Mary – who was from a village near Bamenda got sick and died. It was a surprise.  Mary’s husband was a well-off man, perfectly able to feed his wife and two children.  However he had a secret.

He was HIV+.

Each month he went to Yaoundé for “business”. Really, he went for treatment.  When he died he had AIDS.

Had he told his Mary?  As is too often the case here, admitting this to those around him just wasn’t an option.  The stigma – the shame – was too strong.  Not sharing his status eventually meant he passed his infection on to his wife.

Maybe he didn’t know it would happen, more likely he did.

A year after he died Mary too started to get sick.  Finally, some neighbours who knew her husband’s status took her to get tested.  The secret came out.

It was too late to prevent transmission, but it did not mean her life was over.  While at first Mary wanted to kill herself, a local organization – called IVFCAM – took charge and gave her counseling, psychosocial support, financial help and medical care.

Mary got better – both body and spirit.

Now she is LIVING with HIV.  With the help of IVFCAM she started a business, sent her children back to school, and even adopted several orphans affected (or infected) by HIV&AIDS.

Today, Mary has greater self-confidence, new skills, and is able to talk to others about her HIV+ status.

Is Mary’s life perfect?  No. She still faces stigma, discrimination and doesn’t always have access to all the services she would like.  She still has the virus inside her too.  There’s no cure for HIV&AIDS.  She will require ongoing monitoring and support.

The difference now, though is that Mary wants to live her life.  This will require strength.  She has that.  Support she has too – from IVFCAM and from other women LIVING with HIV.

Often, they come together in song.  Today was one such day.

Now, what’s the connection between VSO and this amazing woman?  VSO has an international volunteer working with IVFCAM – a volunteer who is acting as Organisational Development Advisor.

This volunteer is helping IVFCAM to strengthen their organization by working alongside staff to improve management practices, enhance transparency and – most importantly – involve their beneficiaries in deciding how services should be delivered.

VSO’s volunteer is not directly treating anyone, not directly saving anyone’s life.  Instead she is one link in a partnership that has changed the lives of many women like Mary.

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~ by Greg Spira on January 31, 2010.

2 Responses to “one woman’s story – LIVING with HIV & AIDS”

  1. Thanks for passing on this story and the happy song to go with it!

  2. great positive story!

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