In-depth: Love in the time of HIV/AIDS

GUINEA: "I don't want to remarry unless I find someone who is HIV positive"

Photo: Anne-Isabelle Leclercq/IRIN
Diallo, 49, a widow and a mother of six, lives in Conakry, capital of Guinea
Conakry, 13 November 2008 (PlusNews) - Fatoumata Binta Diallo's husband had been positive for many years when she discovered she was HIV positive in 2001, but he had never told her. Neither had he told his other wives. Diallo, 49, a widow and a mother of six, lives in Conakry, capital of Guinea, and is now President of REGAP+ (network of people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Guinea). She told IRIN/PlusNews her story.

"I started getting ill in 2000. As I kept on being ill, in 2001 I was told I should have a medical check-up, which is when I was told I was HIV positive. I cried and my doctor tried to comfort me. He gave me advice and pointed me in the direction of [an organisation for people living with HIV].

"My husband died in 2005. He had known he was infected for a long time, but he didn't ever say anything. One day when I was doing the housework I found an empty box of medication hidden in the house. I took them to my doctor and he told me they were ARVs [antiretrovirals]. As my husband had kept it a secret, I didn't say anything either.

"I knew my husband and I had the same doctor, but the doctor didn't know he was my husband. One day I'd gone to the doctor's for some x-rays for the early stages of tuberculosis. I recognised my husband from behind, having a consultation in the doctor's office. I moved back and hid.

"When my husband had left, the doctor said to me: 'You see that man? He was [tested positive] five years ago and look how healthy-looking he is. I asked him if he was married, and if his wife knew about it. He said he has three wives, but I couldn't persuade him to tell them. He said he didn't have enough money to pay for the medication for them, and that he was scared [they would leave him], so he kept it a secret'.

My husband was a truck driver. He made trips to the forest region of Guinea [in the southeast]. When he died, I wanted to meet my two co-wives, who lived in Kindia [135km northeast of Conakry].

"My husband's younger brother wanted to marry me [in accordance with the widespread tradition of levirat, or wife-inheritance, in which a widow marries her late husband's brother].

"I turned him down, and I told one of my co-wives that she couldn't marry him either. She asked why, and I explained: I said that she was at risk of infecting my husband's brother and his three wives. She said I was jealous and went ahead and married him. One of my husband's brother's wives has already died.

"I don't want to remarry ... unless I find someone who is HIV positive, or someone without HIV who understands.

"I adopted two children on top of the four of my own. I had been in hospital once, at the same time as their [HIV-positive] mother, and before she died she made me promise that I would do all I could for her children. Their father remarried and abandoned them, so I took them home with me.

"One time a man came to see me. He was infected and wanted to tell his wives, but didn't know how to do it. He wanted me to come and talk to them about HIV to prepare them. I went along and he asked questions in front of his wives and I answered them.

"I saw him again after that and he said that his wives wanted me to help them get screened. I took them and they were both HIV positive, and now they both receive treatment. If we hadn't had that meeting, their husband wouldn't have had the courage to tell them."

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