Joyce Dzidzor Mensah was under a barrage of attacks and insults from the public last year for saying that she had lied to the public about being HIV positive.The former HIV-AIDS ambassador, Joyce Dzidzor Mensah, has come out to explain. In an interview with Showbiz on Friday, Joyce explained that she was indeed HIV-Positive but the stigma she and her children experienced after disclosing her status to the public affected her mentally, led to depression and gave her suicidal thoughts.
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She said “When I started educating people about HIV/AIDS related issues, I was very open and prepared to talk about everything related to the condition. However, I started being stigmatised and after experiencing that for so long, I became depressed and took many wrong decisions. I even attempted suicide and had to be rescued. If I were not depressed, I would never have come out to deny my status,”
Joyce explained that her physiological condition had been diagnosed and she received treatment in Germany and is currently continuing with treatment and receiving medication at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. Joyce told Showbiz that she had moved on from that chapter in her life and was now happily married to a young, supportive guy who does not care about the opinions and perception of others.
“People condemn my new husband for even considering marrying me. They claim I don’t deserve him and that I am a liar but regardless, he is giving me all the support and is encouraging me to go on,” she said. Joyce said her experience has made her regret disclosing her HIV status and acting as an HIV/AIDS ambassador. “There are many people who are infected and have kept their status secret and living normal lives, as long as they are taking their medication, they don’t have to worry about being stigmatised. People only stigmatise you when they know you have the condition. If they don’t know, you live a much better life,” she said.
She said although the public has been educated about HIV/AIDS related issues, this has not affected how people living with the condition are treated by others. “We think because of the education that encourages the public to hug persons with the condition, enough has been done. It goes beyond just a hug or a handshake. The real test comes when you have to live in the same house with people like me and eat from the same bowl or share facilities. People pretend to shake hands with me but will not visit me in my home and even when they do, they refuse to eat or drink anything I offer them,” she said.
“Truthfully, the people who received any positive effect from my campaigns are the people with HIV who previously didn’t have any hope. They now know that it is possible to live productive lives regardless of their status because they see others doing the same. I will personally not encourage anyone to disclose their status publicly because nothing has changed.
The general public has learned nothing, people continue to refer to me as an AIDS patient although we have explained the difference between HIV and AIDS on numerous occasions, and it doesn’t make sense. People still abandon their infected relatives in hospitals even after all the education that has been done,” she added.
Joyce said that as a result of her depression and subsequent treatment, she has planned to take up the cause of people with mental conditions in order to educate the public about their plight and ensure a much better standard of living for them.