How I Found My Will to Live: Doumtigai’s Story
By Doumtigai Guibai, translated by Gena Barnabee – EFA Peer Educator
EFA Peer Educators at gender training in Maroua
My husband died from a disease that we didn’t understand; after medical exams, the results showed that we had been infected [with HIV]. This was a huge shock for me; in addition my husband’s family began to treat me bad, insulting me, refusing to talk to me just because I was infected. I was not even allowed to eat with them anymore. To them, I had killed their son.
My husband’s family went as far as to forbid me to share and drink next to them, I could no longer use the same eating utensils as before – all this from fear that they would be infected. My life became impossible.
There was a young neighbor who had pity on me and defended me in front of my family in regards to this torture that I was living. He introduced me to a man who gave counseling, this man gave me a lot of advice and also showed me that I was not alone in this situation. He suggested that I leave my husband’s family to live with my parents.
I was extremely afraid of my parent’s reaction, but my father understood my situation and gave me a lot of examples of people in my condition that had been living for many years with this disease. He told me that I could live like the others.
Miss Oumarou, a medical counselor, talked to me about associations of people living with HIV and AIDS, at the time associations were typically for adults, but an association for youth had just been created by EFA. Thanks to EFA, I became a member of this association of youth living with HIV and AIDS. With AJEPS Mokolo [the association], I became a new person, like the others. Then the members of my association chose me to attend training on this disease and to become a peer educator. I had the taste of living a new life and I met a lot of other people living with HIV who lived in peace and at ease.
Thanks to my association I had the chance in my life to travel, eat well, and all while surrounded by a group of people who were HIV-positive and some people who were not. I even was able to sleep at a hotel during the training, this I could never have imagined; I was happy!
… After returning from the training, I became an active member of my association where I had the responsibility to buy and sell eggs for an income generating activity. Others in my association like me also bought and sold peanuts, which would help us enormously to balance our lives, to buy our medicines and to become healthy like the others.
Thanks to all these efforts, I could talk with people openly, I could even talk about my disease at church and explain to people in my local language the myths, realities and other things related to HIV and AIDS.
One day, my friend from training, Therese Pehlem, talked to me about a man in Maroua who was interested in me and who was also infected with HIV. I went to his house and I stayed there throughout all of his sickness. We still felt a lot of hope thanks to our associations, but unfortunately he did not survive. After his death the members of AJEPS Maroua [an EFA association in Maroua] asked me to integrate into their association; I was truly honored and I accepted.
Today, I am respected, I have friends, I manage the selling of water which is the income generating activity of my new association, I sleep well, I eat well and I can even help people who are in need, either for advice or for support.
The greatest thing that has touched me to this day is the exchange of ideas, the dialogue, and the friendship within the associations and during the trainings. This gives us more than hope; we have found again the will to live.
My wish today, is to see EFA International continue what they have started and with us help to save the other people who are in my situation. My last words to say are thank you to all who have had the courage to help us and to help those that we have helped.
To date, EFA International has helped create 10 associations (with another 2 currently in development) of youth infected and affected by HIV and AIDS throughout the Far North region of Cameroon. Through education, empowerment and enterprise, EFA International strives to improve the condition of life for these youth and their families. Though positive living and positive prevention, EFA International and our associations work to reduce stigma and discrimination, help others living with HIV or AIDS, and promote the prevention of HIV infection within their communities.