Mrs. Hope Meadows, a person living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has called on the public to see HIV as the beginning of a new life and not the end of the road.
Meadows, who is a mother of three, said this on Thursday in Calabar when she was visited by a team from the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Cross River State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA) and newsmen.
She said as a person living with the virus, it was not a death sentence; all you needed to do was to stay away from things that could expose you to other diseases and from infecting others.
She said she was tested and confirmed HIV positive with two of her children in March 2008 and had lived with the virus for 11 years.
“I tested positive to HIV in 2008 with two of my children, I cried and cried not for myself but for the children.
“The counselor who did a good job counseled me and advised me to join a support group, which I did; and was made the coordinator due to my attitude in the group.
“Although, it was not easy initially because I was beaten up and battered severally by my husband, who refused to go for a test; he finally left me and the children.
“I learnt a lot from the various workshops I attended and had to stay alive and strong for my children and others, who find themselves in similar situation by educating and encouraging them as much as possible,” she said.
She added that there was an anti-discrimination law in Cross River which protected persons living with the virus from stigmatization and discrimination.
“As a support group, we go to communities to educate people about this law and investigate cases of stigmatization.
“Where we discover it to be true, we report the case to SACA and the case is charged to court,” she said.
Similarly, another patient who wanted to be known as Dorcas said she had been living with the virus for 13 years and was doing fine.
Dorcas, who is a mother of two, said she felt like killing herself when she got the news that she was positive but was counseled and she joined a support group.
“Today, as a coordinator of a support group, I now let people know that HIV does not kill if they take their drugs the way they should.
“In fact, they can live healthier than persons without the virus.
“People should also know that testing positive to HIV is not a barrier to getting married and giving birth to children who are negative.
“I am a living witness, I tested positive before getting married, but today I am happily married with two kids who are negative.
“All you need to do is ensure that you take your drugs with strict adherence because if you don’t, due to weakness, your viral load will increase and you will end up in the hospital or even die,” she said.
According to Dorcas, the anti-discrimination law has been passed in Cross River, although her support group has yet to get any report of stigmatization.
She urged anyone who has been stigmatized to report to her so that they could take it up; that was the only way to overcome discrimination.
In his remark, the leader of the team from NACA, Mr. Shimsugh Chagbe, appealed to the public to treat persons living with HIV with dignity as it was constitutional and the right thing to do to end the menace of discrimination and stigmatization.
Discrimination against PLWHIV is a serious crime under the Nigerian law (Anti-Discrimination Act, 2014) as passed by the National Assembly.