A former HIV/AIDS Ambassador, Joyce Dzidzor Mensah, believes the Ghanaian society has not made much progress with respect to overcoming the stigmatization of persons living with HIV/AIDS.
“We haven’t yet arrived at a place where people living with HIV will be accepted wholeheartedly,” she said on The Traffic Avenue as a person living with HIV for the past few years.
In her mind, just shaking hands or hugging a person with HIV is not enough, since the fundamental problem with stigma is psychological.
“You will see people shaking hands with you. They will hug you, but when it comes to realities of the issue, let’s say living in the same room with me, sharing the same toilet with me, eating in the same bowl it’s a different issue… so there are a lot of psychological issues that come with stigma.”
Joyce Dzidzor feels that the culture of stigmatization forced her to deny her status few years ago, because she felt neglected and misunderstood.
In her words: “I was depressed, I had mental problems. I was depressed.”
She maintained that, if “anybody had taken up the cause to actually know why I did that, I believe people wouldn’t have called me a thief.”
In 2014, Joyce Dzidzor was enveloped in controversy when she came out say she had been lying all along about being HIV positive.
Joyce Dzidzor, who had been widely known as an HIV/AIDS ambassador after she reportedly tested positive, was hugely criticized and tagged as fraud and a thief for the seemingly shocking revelation.
But in an apology letter she admitted she had told that lie about her HIV status, but only to protect her children.
Dzidzor, on The Traffic Avenue, maintained that the lie she told was only her attempt at living a normal life because the stigmatization was getting to her. She revealed further that even her attempt at a business venture was shunned by people because of her status.
“I did this just because I wanted to get my life back, to work in society because I realized that the moment you declare you are HIV positive, forget about working. No matter what you are selling, no matter what you doing, nobody will come close to you.”
‘I wouldn’t advice anyone to disclose status’
Following her bleak disposition with stigmatization, she advised persons who have just discovered their HIV status not to tell anyone.
“If I happen to advice somebody who will would also want to disclose their HIV status, I would ask the person to shut up if you love your life because we haven’t gotten to that stage yet. Stigma is still very high and that is the reason people are refusing to know their status.”
Despite the media turmoil and battle with depression, Joyce Dzidzor is making attempts to move on.
She has re-married and given birth to a baby boy in Germany after the first marriage ended with the ambassadorial controversy.
By: Delali Adogla-Bessa/citifmonline.com/Ghana