MARCHING TO FREEDOM: The Steps of a Champion

At the Entry phase prior to the Peer Education Training for brothel-based FSWs in Port-Harcourt, seven people requested for and accessed HIV Counseling and Testing to find out their HIV status. Among the girls who were tested was Nkechi. Nkechi was born in June 1971 and lives in the ‘Eagle Cement’ area of Port Harcourt in Southern Nigeria. It is an area that caters mainly to company workers and other expatriate persons working or visiting; the area has been popular for sex work for about 20 years. She claims that she went into sex work in order to finance her fiancé through school amongst other reasons. She says that her specialty was “having sex with expatriates” who come into the country for business.

According to Nkechi, the type of information about HIV that was prevalent at the time that she first heard about the virus made her “conclude wrongly about it.” For many years she had lived in apprehension that she was living with HIV without going for testing to confirm her status; she had concluded that, because of her profession, she must have been infected. This led Nkechi into excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, drug abuse and other kinds of risky behaviour bearing the thought that she was going to die soon. After confirming her status during a SHiPS for MARPs-organised community outreach she just “couldn’t believe it!” – that she was not HIV positive. This experience made her to see life from a more positive light and she began the change process of living healthier.

During her 1st and 2nd peer sessions, her appearance was transformed and she dressed and looked more beautiful and clean, not smelling of alcohol. She also confessed to have reduced alcohol intake. When the SHiPS for MARPs team enquired what made her change she said “una don give me hope. I thought I was HIV Positive all these years, that was why, I dey live my life anyhow, but now, am a new person. After that Negative result, I made up my mind to protect myself, even, my boyfriend must use condom.” Nkechi who used to be untidy and drunk every time, has turned a new leaf. She is now neat and calmer. She has taken it upon herself to advocate for the use of condom among her fellow FSWs and their boyfriends as well as mobilise them for HCT.

Nkechi was been observed for the 3 months since then and she has since distinguished herself as an different FSW and condom-use CHAMPION!

Society for Family Health… Creating Change, Enhancing Lives

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