Several HIV patients are victims of violence of all sorts,from society to family to partners whereas most of them were infected as a result of sexual violence.The 1st of December which is commemorated as the international day of HIV and AIDs falls with the 16 days of activism campaign against gender based violence. On that day,I spoke to a lady who is a carrier of HIV and now a counselor and works in the HIV and AIDS unit of the university teaching Hospital in yaounde Cameroon, she provides psychosocial support to other HIV patients like herself who are still in denial. This woman was recommended to me by the head of the HIV and AIDs unit of the hospital,so when I came I felt comfortable with the topic already especially because the doctor had spoken to her already and she had agreed to talk,but moreso because she was not just an HIV patient but one who had braved the odds to accept her status and was now providing support to those In denial.
So when I sat down to talk with her ,I explained to her that this was a campaign that I had taken upon myself to carry out during the 16 days of activism campaign against gender based violence,that I was doing radio podcasts which I shared on whatsapp groups and was was pleased to learn about the action she is taking to support other people like her who were battling with HIV,I commended her for being brave and and inspiration to generations,and then told her I hope I would be able to facilitate her work by reaching out to several other patients in denial of their status, I told her I hoped we could work together to identify these people and give them the support they needed.Through out while I was talking she was nodding,then I pulled out my recorder to begin the interview which I would later use for the podcast,but something happened.This lady who had agreed all along that she was HIV positive suddenly denied that she was positive ,she told me she was only helping positive patients in denial to accept their status and take their medication. I was taken aback but had to stay professional and find out what it is exactly that was making her deny her status of being positive whereas she had just agreed less than 5 minutes ago?was it the recorder? Well configured it was so I added that I wont mention her name just to make her feel more comfortable but she said *No am not HIV positive*, her lips trembled while she spoke those words and her eyes began to water,I knew then that I was in for real business.I stayed professional and went on with the interview anyway and began by asking her if she could share some stories of women who were HIV positive and were in denial,the stories of women who had come to her for psychosocial support .She shared the stories of two women without hesitating: the first one was raped on her way home after midnight,she was a food vendor and had to go home daily after midnight sales to people who were either drinking or partying late at night and one day on her way home she was gang raped and didn't report to anyone for fear of being stigmatised and blamed,so she ended up doing tests only about 2 months later when she fell sick and realised she was HIV positive. The second was the story of a lady who was infected by her husband,a husband whom she said was a drunk and slept around with any woman after any of his drinking parties with his friends.He came home one day drunk and demanded to have sex with her she begged him to use a condom because she figured he had just had sex with another woman but he said no and justified it with the fact that he had paid her bride price, owned her and should have sex anytime he wanted to. These were the stories of two women the lady shared with me without hesitation but would not share her own story,she denied even being positive.So at some point in the interview I asked her why she chose to counsel HIV patients and why she thought they would take her serious if she herself was not going through anything like what they were going through? I asked her if she didn't think she would not be able to influence any of these patients she worked with given that they will just dismiss her advise and say well she doesn't know what she is talking about.At this point the lady went silent for about 3 minutes and then she decided to admit that she was positive.This for me was amazing! That she finally admitted that she was positive and added that it's not such a bad thing to be positive, its just an illness like malaria,cancer or any other illness which needs to be treated. Initially she was afraid of the recorder,she didn't want her voice to be associated to admitting something she probably still considered a taboo despite working to demystify it.Now that was the power of using my own power to break the conspiracy of silence against gender based violence.I went to talk to an HIV patient about her story and ended up with 3 stories. That to me was amazing! That I set out to voice a concern but ended up voicing more than a concern.It was 3 stories,she and I worked together and we broke the conspiracy of silence.How can someone be able to survive such brutality and yet thanks to society and awkward rules they cant even speak up against it? For fear of the recorder! For fear of her voice being recognised she would have shut up and let someone else die in pain and silence? Well she finally spoke up.she spoke up for herself and for two others and I did a successful podcast which was later on solicited by 2 local radio stations and broadcast and which was aired on National Radio reaching out to millions of listeners.I layer on shared the podcasts like the several others I have been doing through out the campaign on several social media platforms reaching out to thousands of people and getting incredible feedback from people who sent me their stories. Lets keep breaking the conspiracy of silence.