AFRICA · Nigeria
AIDS had a woman’s face
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS discrimination in Nigeria in conjunction with insufficient medical resources has made it difficult for rural communities to establish not only systems of support, but provide essential medical care to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). Assumpta Reginald (33), founder of ‘Womankind Nigeria for women living with HIV and AIDS in 2005, did not just become a community advocate against HIV/AIDS discrimination, but became a voice for all of those who have been repressed or discriminated against as a result of their contraction of HIV/AIDS. Assumpta went before her community and country at great personal risk through newspaper, radio, and television interviews to discuss life with HIV/AIDS. She has courageously lent her face to the fight to end ignorance and intolerance against PLHA within a male culture that believes HIV/AIDS can be seen on the face.
Living in a society that is defined by male sexuality, Nigerian women and girls are at a high risk of infection resulting from traditional practices of female genital mutilation, wife inheritance, childhood marriage, and strong expectations of loyalty and obedience toward husbands – even if it is not reciprocated. In response, Assumpta strives to increase community understanding while promoting prevention techniques to those who are not infected. Prior to her work through Womankind Nigeria, Assumpta has worked with the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NEPWHAN) as national treasurer and mobilization officer.
Assumpta has dedicated her life to helping PLHA. One of her goals is to create universal access to life-sustaining antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) across Nigeria, and to strengthen outreach through prevention and testing in rural areas. Assumpta works closely with rural communities to reduce stigmas against PLHA, and to encourage testing. Assumpta continues to fight for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Through Womankind Nigeria, Assumpta provides referrals to pregnant HIV positive women for emergency obstetrical health care. Womankind Nigeria supports approximately 200 women monthly to have access to psychological support structures, home based and palliative care, insecticide treated nets, water purifiers, nutrition supplements, and life saving skills training. She improves her community daily through positive information dissemination, counseling, confidential HIV/AIDS testing, and through her positive presence as a voice for those affected by it.