DRC: Jacqueline Kingombe, "I couldn't believe that my own sister would throw me out"
BUKAVU, 7 August 2007 (PlusNews) - HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination have featured greatly in the life of Jacqueline Kingombe, 36, a widow struggling to bring up five children in Bukavu, capital of South Kivu Province, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
|Jacqueline Kingombe (left) and two other members of Foundation Femme Plus
When her soldier husband, Gaston Mufula, died in the capital, Kinshasa, in 2005, Kingombe did not receive any money from the army. Life was expensive and difficult in the city, forcing her to return to her native Bukavu. She told IRIN/PlusNews she was completely unprepared for the stigma and discrimination she faced when she arrived.
"My own sister threw me out of her house when she learnt that I had the disease," she said, wiping away the tears. "All of a sudden, I was out in the cold with my five children. I had nowhere to go. I am originally from Shabunda, [a town about 200km west of Bukavu] but I knew that if I went there, I would die sooner rather than later because I could not access any ARVs [antiretrovirals] there.
"It was a real struggle getting a house to rent. Whenever the landlord learnt that I was HIV-positive, I was thrown out; the stigma was killing me! Having been the wife of a soldier, our life was always one of movement from one area to another, but at least he always took care of getting us somewhere to live and food to eat.
"My husband and I first started getting sick when he was posted in Lubumbashi [capital of Katanga Province, in southern DRC]. When he was sent to Kinshasa, his condition became worse and he later died in the military hospital there. Then I decided to come home [to Bukavu].
"After being sick for a long time, I came to Foundation Femme Plus [a national non-governmental organisation (NGO) assisting people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS] and got tested. I was positive. I thought it was the end of the world; my life was over.
"After my elder sister threw me out when I told her of my HIV status, I tried renting a house for my children and I, but I had no means of support and I was often discriminated against by the neighbours and the landlords. I ended up seeking refuge with my brother, who, thankfully, accepted me as I was. He gave me a room, which I share with my five children; I am still there.
"In August it will be two years since I started taking the ARVs. I am worried about the status of my last-born child, a girl who is now eight years old. I have already had her tested once, but I need to get her tested again after some months to determine her status.
"I survive by doing odd jobs here and there. My biggest problem is hunger - being on ARVs means I must eat well, and the ARVs make me hungry all the time. I need to have a steady job or means of livelihood in order to sustain myself, because the ARVs can be dangerous if you don't eat well.
The other problem is that of dealing with opportunistic diseases. It is true that we get help with ARVs and support from NGOs, but when we have diseases, such as malaria or stomach upsets, we have nowhere and no-one to turn to. If only I could get help with these other diseases."