CAPE VERDE: "I've seen happiness in the eyes of other HIV-positive people"

Samira Pereira Fernandes
praia, 17 May 2007 (PlusNews) - Samira Perreira Fernandes, 22, found out three years ago she was HIV-positive. She believes she contracted HIV from her foreign husband, whom she met and married in Cape Verde. A few months after finding out, she went public about her status on television. She told IRIN/PlusNews about her experience.

"I was worried because of my husband's behaviour. He slept with lots of girls and was trafficking drugs. I knew about HIV and everything indicated that both of us were taking risks. I told my husband I was going to do a test, which I did with the help of a psychologist. When I got the result, I showed it to him and I was so angry that I wanted to kill him. He fled Cape Verde.

First off, I didn't tell anyone, but then people started to get suspicious. People are curious, and when they are in doubt they will do everything they can to find out. There was a lot of discrimination and I moved house lots of times, but the houses where I lived never let me use the kitchen or the bathroom.

I didn't hide. Since I was a child, I've always done what I felt was right; I didn't care what others thought. Within months, I showed my face [on television] because I didn't want to be so badly treated; I wanted [HIV-positive people] to be treated better.

Today, thank God, a lot of HIV-positive people have support and help. There is a programme offering microcredit to HIV-positive people to help them create sustainable businesses, but for me it's very hard to have a business because I've already shown my face.

Nothing I invested in has worked; all I have been left with are debts. I'm not going to be able to find work or invest, so I've decided to just stay at home. I have started making crochet here, but I don't know what I'm going to do with it; I don't know if people will buy what I make.

It's not easy to tell someone you're HIV positive. If I hadn't shown my face I could be living like the others, living normally. Now I want to regret having shown my face but I'm not going to; time can't go back.

I have friends and I have succeeded in winning over many people. I've also seen the results of my work; I've seen happiness in the eyes of other HIV-positive people.

Since then [appearing on television], lots of HIV-positive people have stood up and realised they could have full lives without looking behind them to see who was watching, but no other woman has shown her face. Who can blame them when they see the life I lead?"


Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews, Stigma/Human Rights/Law - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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