HIV risk perceptions: the story of the pestering man

In my work with persons living with HIV I come across many stories. But there are some stories which move me a lot and echo the difference in human beings, writes James Kityo.

I owe this story to Mr. Kimuli Hennry and the Kalagala Group of People Living With HIV (Kalagala PHA) who inspired me to re-tell it for the benefit of humanity.

In my work with persons living with HIV I come across many stories. But there are some stories which move me a lot and echo the difference in human beings. This true story relates to the real challenges that people living with HIV face and how some of them are determined to ensure that those that do not have HIV don’t get it. Their actions illustrate what it really means to be committed to ensuring there are zero new HIV infections.

It is also important to note that, despite the vast knowledge about HIV and AIDS, many people do not perceive themselves to be at risk and may not seek HIV testing services. Many people’s perception of whether someone else has HIV seems to operate by stereotypical appearance only, as is the case in the following story.

There is a female member of Kalagala PHA who is a widow and living positively with HIV. But because this lady takes good care of herself, and is really nice, cute and attractive, she is a centre of attraction to many men. It was therefore not long after the death or her husband that one of the men from her village admired her and sought to have sex with her.

The woman says this man came to her with the following words: “I love you and I would like you to be my partner and we can enjoy life and have fun together. It is not true that you are HIV positive.”

The requests from this man came in several times to the extent that the woman began to feel uncomfortable. She was being confronted by the same man many times as he kept pestering her for love and for sex.

On each of these occasions the woman gave him the same answer: “I am living with HIV and I do not want you to fall in this HIV trap. There is no way I can let you in unknowingly. When we have sex without protection you can get HIV and you may have very many difficulties. You will take this HIV to your wife and other partners.”

Not satisfied with his efforts, and failing to convince this lady, the man started paying her home visits at awkward hours of the night, insisting that they have unprotected sex. This was too much for her. The woman decided to confide in the Kalagala PHA group members for guidance about this man who seemed to be stubborn enough to give up his life.

After a lot of deliberations by the group members it was decided that, since the group conducts regular HIV and AIDS drama sessions, they should take the drama piece to this man’s village where the woman would make a public disclosure about her HIV status.

This is what was done. The ‘pestering man’ was invited for the drama and the lady went public by announcing to the whole community that she was HIV positive and was happily living positively with HIV.

During the performance she said these words: “I urge all of you that are not sure of your HIV status to go and get tested, and live in the know not in darkness. Do not live in doubt. Those who have ears should hear.”

But after the public declarations the same man would have none of it. He still insisted that the lady was not HIV positive. But when he was contacted to go and be tested for HIV he refused. And he went on pestering the woman for a sexual relationship.

The actions of Kalagala PHA can be taken as commendable engagement as advocated in the Greater Involvement of People Living with AIDS (GIPA) and Meaningful Involvement of People Living with AIDS (MIPA). They are committed to ensuring there is less risk of new infections. Others in the community should follow their fine example.