ANGOLA: Esperança Mutamba, "I'm living this double life"

Photo: David Dallaqua/stock.xchng
"I don't want my picture taken, even from the back"
Luanda, 16 November 2009 (PlusNews) - Esperança Mutamba (not her real name), who has been living with the virus for 10 years and works as HIV/AIDS counsellor in the Angolan capital, Luanda, is still not ready to publicly disclose her HIV status.

"I consider myself to be good at what I do. I don't want to have my name used, because in my private life only my two sisters know what my job is and that I've been HIV positive for more than ten years. My children and my boyfriend don't even have any suspicions.

"I provide counselling to so many people that I've lost count. Twice a week I carry out visits to HIV patients in the hospital, and I go to patients' homes and fetch them water when they aren't able to.

"I also pick up medication at the hospital for those who aren't strong enough to go there. Sometimes I get up at five o'clock in the morning to get there early and find a bed in the hospital for those who live far away. I also find time to work with HIV-positive children and take care of my grandchildren.

"When I converted to my church in 1995, I was already HIV positive. I was always sick, I gradually lost a lot of weight, and ended up with malaria and skin tumours, and I had to move into my sisters' home so they could take care of me.

"It was only in 2003 that I got up the courage to get tested. The test came back positive for HIV. At the time there was practically no treatment available in Angola.

"I managed to begin mine because I confided in a woman from the National Health Council who sent people abroad [to Brazil or Portugal] for treatment. She sent me to the Multiperfil Clinic in Luanda, which was the only one providing this type of treatment in the country.

"Soon thereafter, I participated in the creation of an NGO that provides prevention and with care to HIV patients, and I've been working there since.

"I've been in a relationship for six years, but my boyfriend doesn't know I'm HIV positive. I take care of him, so I'm not interested in telling him. I stopped having children very early on, when I was 20.

"This is not very common in Angola, where we women are encouraged to have lots of children. I had two and didn't want any more. When my boyfriend begins to pressure me to have sex without a condom, I say that I don't want any commitment with children.

"In the beginning I hid my HIV status from my children so they wouldn't suffer [from stigma and discrimination], but now, at 46, I live alone, I'm independent and healthy, and I don't see the need to tell them.

"I also can't stop working, as it does me a great deal of good, so I'm living this double life. I tell my relatives, my boyfriend and my friends that I work as an activist in NGOs that work in the health sector.

"I don't want my picture taken, even from the back: my children are very clever, they're always on the Internet, and they could find out."


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

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

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