Stories have been told of Nigeria women living with HIV whose marriages end up suffering because of their status. Despite the fact that human rights institutions, groups and donor agencies fight domestic violence, violence against women and girls living with HIV/AIDS has continued unabated, Vanguard reports.
During a Dialogue on Violence Against Women and Girls Living with HIV in Lagos, some of the affected women shared their stories with Good Health Weekly.
The programme was organised by Positive Action for Treatment Access, PATA, in collaboration with Women Advocate Research and Documentation Center, WARDC.
Just as the saying, marriage is for better for worse. But how practical is this in reality? This is the pertinent question many women such as Deborah and Janet who are living with HIV are begging for an answer.
“My life has experienced enough violence even before I was diagnosed HIV positive but my new status escalated the already ugly situation,” Deborah said amidst tears.
“There was so much intimidation and at the end of the day we just had to go our separate ways.”
“I am so happy that I left and now I can confidently speak out. If you don’t take up that challenge, you cannot achieve anything in life, you will die of stigma and discrimination.
I’m happy that I left the marriage and became an advocate for the rights of women living with HIV in Lagos state,” she said, adding that she later got married to another man who though negative is very supportive.
“This lady walked up to me at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, in LASUTH crying. She narrated how she disclosed her HIV positive status to her husband before marriage and the man accepted even though he is negative. After their wedding, he began to blackmail her.
The man reminds her that she must be giving him money otherwise he would tell the whole world about her status and how he is risking his life to be with her.
It got to a stage that the lady didn’t have anything to give again and she started borrowing. She told me she is in debt to the tune of over N200, 000.
When she could not borrow money again, the man began beating her. He beat her to the point that she was twice hospitalise. She spent seven days in the hospital.
I confirmed that because I spoke to the doctors that attended to her. Yet in each of those hospital visits, she still begged the man to come back to home because she had nowhere to go tas she had lost both parents.
Finally the woman had to leave the marriage and moved down to Agbara because the man started began telling everybody on the street the reason he left her, saying that he didn’t know she was HIV positive before he married her.
The lady is a hairdresser, so the man started telling all her clients about her status and she lost her job and couldn’t walk on the street, then she had to move down to Agbara. Till yesterday, people are still calling her, to ask about her status.”
“People living with disability and HIV/AIDS suffer more violence because they are much more vulnerable than any other women because of their circumstances and situation.
This is because people think that they depend on them, and that they don’t have any other option so they see them from the point of sympathy and that make them much more vulnerable to violence,” Dr Afolabi said.
”It is important for us to activate the policies that are on ground. In Lagos state, there is a domestic violence provision law. We need to activate that law.
Activating that law also requires that people must understand what the law provides, understand what and where they can get help, know which group provides services- whether counseling and legal services,” she added.
“The government, institutions, women themselves and men must be involved in addressing the issue of violence against women.
It is killing the society gradually, its making women run mad in the street, its turning beautiful women to ugly women in the society because once you poor acid on them their life change forever, there is nothing you can do, no amount of plastic surgery can bring her back to her normal face,” she said.
“We continuously advocate and make people aware that we need to accommodate people living with HIV/AIDS, not to stigmatize them in our community.”
“Now the issue is that if the prevalence among young women between the ages of 15 and 24 is estimated to be three times higher than among men of the same age according to the National AIDS Control Agency, NACA, and violence against women and girls manifest in various forms.
Some women are tested and their results are disclosed to their partner without their consent whereas when men are tested their partners are not informed. Again some women are placed on drugs without finding whether they are positive or not.
How can we enforce the existing laws in Lagos state, how can we engage women and girls living with HIV as champions and advocates in addressing issues of violence?
How do we increase funding which is critical to support the intervention programmes targeted at addressing cases of violence against these people,” she noted.
Tags: HIV/AIDS, PATA, WARDC
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This is the sad reality of some married women. I feel bad for them.
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