It was on a faithful Saturday when I received a call from Yaya, begging me to come see her because she is not doing ok. I suggested we meet somewhere cool so we can talk while chilling but she insisted I come see her at home because she is so pale and ashamed to leave her home. “What can be wrong that this vibrant young friend of mine can’t leave her home” I asked myself.
I immediately dressed up, rush to her place to find out what this “pale and ashamed to leave the house” was all about. Upon getting to her place I sporadically jumped down the bike i had boarded because I was scared of what I will hear. When I got into the house, one glance at Yaya almost brought down tears from my eyes. The beautiful young and hardworking girl I know is now a shadow of herself. Like an inquisitive kid, I quickly asked her what was going on. She immediately burst into tears which made me more confused. After calming her down, she slowly looked at me with eyes that only showed anger and pain. At this point, my mind was racing to all angles of the world, trying to guess what’s up with Yaya. At this point, she narrated how she had gone to the hospital and was diagnosed with HIV. For a minute there I could not believe it…..in my despair, she explained how she had sex with a man who has been requesting for a relationship for over two years and has been very helpful to her financially. So she finally accepted to date this man and on the first day they had sex, this man denied using a condom saying he doesn’t like using condoms and Yaya accepted, thinking she can trust him.
Months later Yaya discovered some strange rashes on her but couldn’t imagine it was something this serious. She treated it and was ok for a while till one day she noticed she was getting weaker and weaker with little appetite for food. That was when she decided to visit the hospital again. Only this time, the results will change her whole life.
Yaya is a young business woman who is barely keeping her small shop open due to the current armed conflict in the North West region of Cameroon. She lives with a relative who now treats her like an outcast and doesn’t care if Yaya feeds or not. This relative of hers even locks the kitchen when going out of the house. She tells Yaya that people in the neighborhood are gossiping about her. As if that’s not enough, she tells Yaya that with her current status she will not find a man out there that will marry her, except it’s a man she meets at the HIV unit at the hospital where Yaya collects her antiretroviral. Few months back, before all this they were like best of friends and told each other every tiny secret as ladies.
With that, I became angry not only with her relative for treating her that way but with myself too, for not having checked on my friend for a while who almost committed suicide after getting such treatment from her own relative.
This is a young vibrant girl who had so many plans for her future and her only fault was trusting a man who she thought was her guardian angel from heaven, whereas he is from hell. All Yaya thinks of now is what her other family members and friends will say when they hear this. She barely leaves her home now because she thinks every prying eye is looking deep into her soul to judge her.
Yaya is so full of regret and wish she had refused dating this man.
This got me thinking, why will young struggling girls feel obliged to date a man or have sex with him because he has been helping financially and not protect themselves? Why will men think its ok to infect vulnerable girls because they feel indebted to them?
Women have the right to make decisions about their bodies, be it sex, child birth among others.
Maikem Emmanuela Manzie