Clementine and I were on the same plane going to Cape Town in South Africa for the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) which took place from December 7, 2013 to December 11, 2013.
We also shared the same apartment, but of course in different bedrooms in down town Cape Town near Cape Town Stadium.
Clementine feels condoms are but one of the most effective interventions against HIV but alas, they are not being utilised as much as they should.
She says particularly the female condom, there hasn’t been enough information on it, let alone its usage.
I am excited with the condom campaign that has been launched in a number of countries.
In Zambia, the campaign was launched on December 2, 2013 in Serenje by Deputy Minister of Community Development, Mother and Child Health Jean Kapata where Clementine was in attendance busy giving one-on-one talks on the importance of using condoms to the many people that thronged the launch.
“I am happy that Zambia is one of the countries where the condom campaign has been launched. This was a national event where there was a display of condoms and educational materials. Female condoms also took centre stage.
“At ICASA, the condomise group took the campaign seriously and I think the world now is aware of the importance of using condoms because many countries were represented,” she says.
She is hopeful that a lot more people will now start using condoms, especially the female condoms.
Clementine, a mother of one daughter and with two grandchildren, is currently looking after several orphaned children from within her family circles.
She says she can’t wait to be a great grandmother. To her, HIV is a health condition just like any other illness such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, etc.
She says people easily talk about all other conditions except HIV and wonder why this is the case and yet many enjoy sex, the main driver of HIV.
Sharing her personal story about HIV, Clementine says she knew about her status in 1998 after she suffered from tuberculosis (TB).
At the time, she was living in Botswana and she remembers that her CD4 count then was below 200 and her viral load was very high.
She could not start treatment immediately because ARVs at that time were too expensive.
In 2000 Clementine managed to afford the drugs and was put on combivir which she took for only three months and stopped due to high costs involved.
In 2002, her health started deteriorating and her CD4 count dropped even further prompting her to go to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka where she was advised to immediately commence treatment after she informed the doctor that she had previously taken combivir.
Clementine started buying the drugs though it was still expensive to do so while the procedure of doing so was cumbersome then. She even had to sell off her personal belongings such as furniture, household electrical goods, including blocks that were meant to build her a house to raise funds for the drugs.
She was also introduced to the internet where she searched on some e-forum to share about HIV and came across a name of a Scottish doctor who she e-mailed only to get a response from the wife, who coincidentally, was also a doctor.
The Scottish lady started paying for Clementine’s drugs until subsidised drugs were introduced and eventually became free in 2004.
On condoms, Clementine urges people to use them every time they have sex and emphases on the female condom.
At ICASA she benefited from all the sessions she attended, especially on the role of communities in dealing with HIV, the condom session for the youth and cryptococal menengitis as a co-infection with HIV.
She was also touched by First Lady Christine Kaseba’s keynote address to the conference in which she discussed the importance of involving young people and taking decisive actions when dealing with the issue of HIV.
On stigma and discrimination, Clementinme says because she quickly went public about her status, people stopped pointing fingers at her. She advises people living with HIV to disclose their status at least to someone they are close to and always go for early treatment.
Clementine has lived a happy life despite living with HIV and she has not been bed-ridden from the time she started taking ARVs and each time she feels unwell, she quickly goes to the clinic or hospital.
That’s Clementine, a true Zambian woman who has chosen to go out there and preach the word about HIV and AIDS.
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