Self-stigma has an impact on a person’s ability to live positively, it also affects adherence to treatment and access to health services. Makhumalo Chakela, a 57-year-old woman who lives in n Matebeleng Ha Ralebona, in Leribe District found it very difficult to disclose her HIV status to her relatives. After her husband’s death, she discovered she was HIV positive but taking medication was a farfetched idea as she was still grieving.
People were only mumbling behind her back suspecting that she was infected, which made her to isolate herself from the rest of the community. This never solved anything as she continued deteriorating due to her unconscious mind about her wellbeing. ‘’I was even afraid of disclosing my HIV status to my children,’’ she narrated. She was tormented on her own until she came across SAfAIDS Men/Women as Protectors (MasP/WasP) programme in her community.
Men/Women as Protectors programme
SAfAIDS Men and Women as Protectors programme is aimed at establishing groups of Men and Women as Partners (MasP/WasP) who are committed to ending gender-based violence (GBV), child marriages, reducing HIV infection and other negative and harmful practices that perpetuate abuse of women and girls in the community. Phesisanag Bophelong (PB), a SAfAIDS partner works with MasP/WasP trained facilitators to create awareness and promote access to sexual health, HIV and GBV information. It happened that on one occasion, Makhumalo accidentally attended the WasP community dialogue. “I was surprised to hear one of the PB volunteers openly disclosing her HIV status in front of the participants. The participants never showed any negative attitude in response. This gave me the courage to open up. l was afraid no more,’’ she confessed. She eventually talked to the PB volunteer who introduced her to the WASP club in her community.
‘’I am now free to talk about my health issues without fear of being judged. I am happy that both my family and community accepted me and they all treat me like any other person.’’
SAfAIDS MasP/WasP programme has positively influenced so many lives of men and women in Matebeleng Ha Ralebona community by promoting access to health service without fear of stigma and discrimination from the community and self-acceptance of one’s status.