Rejected and stigmatized, but saved by your love
By Charles Kwuelum
In March, I met with Hannatu Anthony* one of the beneficiaries of free medications, treatments and socio-economic empowerment programs made possible by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) support for the Faith Alive Clinic in Jos, Nigeria.
Hannatu Anthony was pregnant and receiving free prenatal services and medical care at the Faith Alive Clinic. The clinic offers free health care services (prevention, treatment and control) to people with HIV and AIDS, making health care accessible to the most vulnerable, especially youth, infants, pregnant women and mothers.
More than 250 patients are diagnosed daily by the doctors and medical team and accorded necessary psychosocial and economic support while transitioning to sustainable healthy recovery.
Nigeria has the third highest rate of HIV in the world, according to Nigeria’s Global AIDS Response country progress report in 2015. In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimated that between 3.4 million and 3.7 million Nigerians are living with HIV.
According to the 2014 report, this includes more than 400,000 children. Another 1.1 million to 3.3 million children have been orphaned due to AIDS. The world has committed to ending the global AIDS epidemic by 2030, but while enormous gains have been made, persistent challenges remain. Adequate resources from countries such as the United States are critical in responding to this challenge.
The stories of care and support from the Faith Alive medical family are in contrast with the trauma, rejection and dehumanization that often results from negative cultural and religious reactions against people living with HIV and AIDS. This was the experience of Hannatu Anthony and other beneficiaries of the free medical services and socio-economic empowerment programs made possible by MCC support.
MCC helps to restore the dignity and hope of this community of people living with HIV and AIDS. When Hannatu Anthony learned that I was from MCC, she responded in excitement, “you [MCC] are doing a good work. God bless you.”
Dr. Christian Ogoegbunem Isichei, founder and coordinator of the Faith Alive Foundation, says that “when HIV and AIDS patients are abandoned and stigmatized, even at death Faith Alive honors their lives and bodies through proper burial rites.”
Humanizing and dignifying people living with HIV and AIDS, inevitably embodies God’s love that overcomes all forms of bias (1 Corinthians 13:7), thereby transforming rejection and stigmatization into fulfilled and graceful lives. This is the Love that has saved Hannatu Anthony and many others through MCC support for Faith Alive Clinic.
*Actual name withheld for confidentiality reasons.