Mamounata, Burkina Faso - I thank God who has granted me the strength to recount the story of my life. I have AIDS. It is thanks to Sr Françoise that I discovered this. She has been my friend since 1997. I used to visit her frequently with my friend Alima in Dapoya neighbourhood in Ouagadougou, where she lived. She used to heap advice on us and, although I've never been to school, we understood each other.
My husband was unemployed, which prompted me to sell some food, to be able to feed my family. I had a health problem affecting my arms so Sr Françoise suggested that I see a doctor. At the ambulatory treatment centre, they concluded that I had HIV. It was a friend of Sr Françoise who revealed the test result to me. She was the professional charged with welcoming and counselling me, and she advised me to do further tests for my shoulder pain. An x-ray showed that my lungs were affected so I was hospitalised immediately. Sr Françoise, assisted by my husband, watched over me for more than 10 days.
When I was in hospital, my husband sold all his furniture to pay the expenses. I was allowed to go home but soon relapsed. It was then that my husband rejected me, saying he couldn't take anymore. Sr Françoise tried in vain to counsel him; his decision was final. So I returned to live with my mother in a rundown house, 'widowed' despite my young age. My faltering health made life difficult.
To go for treatment and return, I used to hitchhike. After a while, I stopped taking ARVs and started to feel pain. I had to undergo treatment and sought the help of Françoise and Gertrude Diarra. Gertrude pleaded with my husband to take me back but he refused. Sr Françoise found out how much a two-month massage treatment would cost and gave me the money in advance. The doctors who were to look after me were very caring and concerned about me, to the extent that they asked me how I was going for my massage sessions. When I told them I would go on foot, they told me to keep the money for transport, and gave me vitamins as well. I thanked them. Upon reflection, I decided to use the money for food in order to be stronger, so I made myself a provision of rice and corn. I then had to use shortcuts to go for the therapy, and sometimes I found kind-hearted people who would drive me back. After some time, I relapsed and ended up in hospital to resume treatment. Daily treatment was one injection and 12 tablets. Sometimes I fainted.
Socially, I lived a life of stigmatisation. The people who boosted my moral were my mother, Sr Françoise and Gertrude. These two used to visit me at home, bringing moral support and food supplies, making the atmosphere comfortable. In 2001, Sr Françoise left but told us to remain united in growing solidarity because she wanted to create an association to take better care of people. She promised to stay in touch through Gertrude, which she did. Our little group grew and this is how we got to know the other women who eventually formed part of the Association Solidarité, Vie et Santé (ASVS – Association of Solidarity, Life and Health). Sr Françoise sent us money, which allowed us to meet our modest needs.
The support given to me by the association is enormous and has brought me consolation because I can meet my needs. Thanks to the micro-credit system set up by the ASVS, I sell soap and earn something small which keeps us from destitution. As for my health, the disease has eaten away at my lungs to the point that any physical effort is a strain. But I commend myself into God's hands.