Narlyse Bito talks about the female condom
Narlyse Bito is a HIV positive woman. She is working for the Association of People Living With AIDS
Douala, Cameroon, November 05, 2010
How long have you been living with HIV?
I was tested sero positive in 1995. So I have been living with HIV for the last 15 years.
Do you know how you contracted the virus?
I was married and gave birth to my first child in 1994. My second child was born in 1995, he was born sick. We were taken to the General Hospital in Douala where they found out the baby had HIV. I was also tested positive. My husband died three months later from AIDS.
What is the situation of the children today?
My second child died in 1995 because there were no medicines available. Children born ill these days benefit from the medicines being available now. We have members of our association who have given birth to children that are HIV positive. At least there is hope for them. This was not the case when I gave birth.
How has life been for you since you found out your HIV status?
I can tell you that we were the first people who were tested HIV positive in Cameroon. It was not easy. There was serious discrimination. I informed my family about my status, and they rejected me. I suffered very much from this discrimination. No one would touch my food. No one would embrace me. They pointed fingers at me and gossiped about my status.
So how has your HIV status affected you today?
My illness has given me new friends. I want to help young people. I want to help the population. This is not my first public testimony. I want to tell my country and those living elsewhere who do not believe HIV exists, that if all of us remain silent, the youths will continue to be exposed to HIV. So we have to accept our status and move on. Because of my public testimonies, I have more friends than enemies.
How are female condoms helping people living with HIV/AIDS?
Those of us living positively with HIV must be responsible. Personally, I have never hidden my sero positive status from my male partners. So they have the choice to accept me on the condition that we use condoms or to reject me. I have not had any lasting relationships though. You know, people want to use a condom but not with someone they know has HIV. From the moment they discover that you have HIV they change their minds. Women have particularly suffered immensely. They became pregnant without knowing because their men never wanted to use the male condom. With the dawn of the female condom, we have more choice and freedom. We feel we are in charge of our sex life. Those of us living with HIV should all know how to use the female condom. We must behave responsible.
How do you promote the use of the female condom?
We were trained by ACMS on how to demonstrate the use of the female condom. We are a Community Based Organisation under ACMS. We carry out mass sensitisation campaigns targeting motor taxi drivers, markets and just passengers. And ofcourse we try to sell them too. We all talk from our own experience. We use the female condom ourselves so that makes it easy to explain. We sell quite a lot. Many people buy one just to try, both men and women. Sometimes they come back to buy more. Women use it to protect themselves. Sometimes men buy them for their wives.
Sometimes people say that the female condom is too big. But when these same people use it, they discover that it is really adapted to the structure of the woman’s organs.
Are female condoms always available?
Yes, I think so. ACMS is always replacing our stock. They come around all the time to check if we need more supplies.
Do you also talk to traditional and religious leaders about the female condom?
No, the religious leaders are not keen on the female condom. They say they are in favour of marriages and childbirth. But the traditional leaders support our campaigns. When there is a community meeting we go there and address the people.
How do the government administrators facilitate your activities?
Well, you know the government hasn’t got the means to sustain the campaign against HIV/AIDS. But luckily we have organizations like ACMS that have never given up on the Association of People Living with HIV. We are hoping that those funding ACMS will continue doing so. All associations working with people living with HIV/Aids should be given access to the female condoms.
Anti Retroviral drugs are free of charge in Cameroon. I was one of the first to start using the anti retroviral drugs in Cameroon. My association used to buy it for 6OO.OOO CFA every month. But it is being offered free of charge these last four years. But people living with HIV have a big problem of survival. Many do not have the means of carry out any activity. They don’t have the means to pay for medical tests in hospitals. But we are not folding our arms. This association is helping a lot of HIV carriers. We are fighting for our youths. But most important is to change the behaviour of the people. And to make sure that the youth protects themselves so that they will not become victims too. Therefore the female condom should stay to save more lives!