A Positive HIV Positive Life

The first time I met Joyce, I was shooting people who are HIV Positive for the Global Fund. Mawuli was the one filming the interviews so I didn’t get to hear much of her story directly since I tend to shoot quietly but the little I heard stayed with me.
This year, I have decided to photograph what matters most to me as a matter of priority. I don’t think there’s a family in Ghana that has not been directly or indirectly affected by HIV and AIDS but many years after the discovery of this disease, nobody talks about it. It is a taboo topic in most homes. A lot of companies fire employees when they find out they are HIV positive. Many marriages have been wrecked and children orphaned by it. 
But the biggest problem with HIV is not the infection itself but the stigma that comes with it. All initial advertising and mass communication material created within Africa were scary. The intent was to scare people off from unprotected sex but in the end it backfired and most people are genuinely afraid to have anything to do with someone living with HIV and AIDS.

Joyce was infected at the age of 19 by a 47 year old man she used to sing with in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church choir. When she got pregnant, he gave her money many times to abort and when she refused, he abandoned her. When she was seven months pregnant, she took a routine HIV and AIDS test in the hospital and discovered she was positive. Since her ex-lover won’t pick her calls, he only confirmed through a text message that he had deliberately infected her. Two months after she had her son, the man died. Just before she could get over the trauma of being infected with HIV and AIDS and raising a son as a single parent, word spread in her neighbourhood that she was HIV positive and she was beaten and kicked out of her house by her neighbours. 

Joyce says the one year of waiting to find out the status of her son was the longest most difficult wait of her life. Fortunately, that son was negative. She’s now married to an amazing man- Ben, with whom she has Dela a beautiful little girl who is also HIV negative. Joyce is a trained seamstress but her passion is music and she’s been a back up vocalist and dancer for some of Ghana’s top musicians. She’s also a singer in her own right, has an album to her credit and is currently working on a new one. 

Joyce says “I decided to take the job away from the gossips. I decided to share my own story” and today, she is invited into schools, churches and organisations to spread the word.

More to come. Have a great week.


Edward Tagoe said…
I like her openness about her current situation. I was even more puzzled when I heard she had another kid after she got the virus. I would love to know how she did it! Artificial insemination, or is her hubby too +ve?
Both of Joyce's children are from men who are HIV+. What a lot of people don't know is that when an HIV positive woman is on Anti Retroviral Treatment during pregnancy, her baby will be totally protected from infection... unless something goes wrong during delivery. It is therefore normally advisable that they give birth through Ceasarian operation.
Kafui said…
She is amazingly BOLD! Thanks for sharing.
DiDi said…
Oh wow,never knew this. thanks for the enlightenment. Have a Great Week Sir.
DiDi, the pleasure is mine. It is always easier to fear what we don't know.
Amma Mama said…
Wow, just beautiful and inspirational!
Amma, happy new year to you.
SocialDela said…
what a beautiful woman. This stigma thing is serious.
Stigma heightens trauma and it is the reason a lot of people don't survive this.
t said…
But why infect someone on purpose? That is a wicked person. Glad he's dead.
Opanin Kwabena Antwi Sarpong said…
Love and passion unto people living with HIV even aids them to live longer.
Great story!
Brave woman!
Laura said…
An inspiring woman and inspiring photos to match. Thank you for sharing!
Alli said…
Truly inspirational, Best wishes to Joyce and her family
Annette Akye said…
Oh wow! deliberate infection? smh! and being beaten and kicked out? thats terrible! I wish her the very best!
this is such a beautiful interview.
Unknown said…
My heart goes out to her and children very brave woman
Abena said…
She's soo pretty,I luv her eyes and for a mother of two,she's really hawt!
She was a bright eyed innocent girl who was taken advantage of-it could happen to anyone of us.
Anonymous said…
Nana, thanks for sharing this story. Funny enough as I type this, there's a commercial on T.V. about HIV and PMTCT. I live in a community where it's no secret who has HIV and who doesn't. People go for their ART and don't feel ashamed to be seen in the health post. There is definitely stigma but it's not to the same extent as I have seen it in Ghana (I should mention that I live in a rural part of Africa). I do hope we can all do our part to change the misconceptions about this disease. P.S. I've been a fan of the blog but it's my first time commenting. Keep up the good work and congrats on winning at the Blogcamp.

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