Charity Owusu Danso has worked with the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) as one of the commission’s AIDS Ambassadors.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of Crystal Home Base and Aid Aged Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) based in Kasoa in the Central Region of Ghana.
Her story about how she ended up getting infected with the HIV virus appears quite chilling and sympathetic.
Charity’s case should be a perfect example of a guide to help influence behavioural and attitudinal changes regarding the misconceptions and myths people have about HIV sufferers who are subjected to all forms of abuse, maltreatment, stigmatisation and discrimination.
While Charity is HIV positive, her six children amazingly remain negative.
I was profoundly struck by her narrative down the line.
Knowledge on HIV/AIDS
Charity found out she was positive shortly after the death of her late husband, whose case had to be given another critical second look by a principal nursing officer who had coincidentally arrived from Kenya with fresh ideas, insight, understanding and knowledge on HIV/AIDS after undergoing training.
The medical practitioners at the Ridge Hospital had prior to that been left clueless as to what possibly might have led to her husband’s ailment and subsequent demise.
How her late husband got the disease still appears a mystery to her because she had never been suspicious of him playing infidelity.
Charity performed her roles as you would have any faithful wife do in a normal marriage. She never ever imagined once in her life she would one day wake up to the reality that she was HIV positive.
“I was shocked because I thought HIV was far away from me, as a married woman,” she says.
When her mother later got to know of her status, she cried all night because she thought she was going to lose one of her two children.
Charity went through hellish experience in the hands of her late husband’s family in her attempt to establish the real cause of the man’s death.
This nearly generated into a feud between her and the family who tried to conceal rather than let out the full disclosure of the cause of death.
At age 30 and four years after her late husband had passed away, Charity remarried.
Interestingly, before their legally binding second marriage, she braved through the odds and boldly disclosed her status to her would-be husband when he approached her with marriage proposal.
She was bold and honest with him without fear of what the repercussion would be to their relationship.
“Initially I refused to accept his proposal because of my HIV positive status. But when he found out that I was positive, he still kept his calm,” she stated.
Why would her would-be husband then gather so much confidence and propose finally to marry an HIV positive person when Charity had plainly told him she was positive? What had blindly informed his foolhardiness?
At the peak of love and affection for each other, they both had no other option to continue in that wonderful path of love and fantasy. But they have treaded cautiously.
They both finally decided to subject themselves to HIV counselling and education, particularly as Charity was positive.
Her fiancé was not. The adherence counselling came up as very timely and vital as it presented an opportunity for both of them to learn a few things about how to manage and handle a very risky, life-threatening and dangerous marriage situation in which one partner is HIV positive.
Through adherence counselling, the person who is infected is given instructions to strictly go by a medical doctor’s advice.
The drugs work to further weaken the HIV virus in the person already infected and minimises the chances of his/her partner who has no infection acquiring the disease.
Charity had consistently and persistently been under anti-retroviral (ART) drug and counselling.
It is in such rare or special case counselling and education session that other HIV prevention and control alternatives, such as the safe use of condoms during sexual intercourse and when to decide how and when to have children, are discussed.
Inadequate public information
In Charity’s opinion, it is the lack of adequate public information and sensitisation to the subject of HIV education and counselling that had actually led to perceptions that people with HIV virus could not be married in a lifetime, and that urgently needed to be corrected.
Sadly enough, she lost her job as a seamstress when she acquired HIV.
The repercussions were deadly.
“Many people who brought their clothes for me to sew stopped patronising my services when they knew I had the disease later,” Charity says.
Her NGO’s job entails taking care of people living with HIV and embarking on HIV/AIDS education programmes for young people in and out of school, churches and even hospitals.