Former HIV/AIDS Ambassador Joyce Dzidzor Mensah, who caused an uproar when she came out to deny she ever had AIDS after years serving as an ambassador, has sought to explain the rationale behind the decision and what it cost her.
Her denial of ever being HIV positive shocked everyone to the core, and she has revealed it was precipitated by being stigmatised, stigma which drove her to the brink of suicide.
Dzidzor opened up about that period of her life in an interview with the Graphic Showbiz.
“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,”
She added that coming out about one’s HIV status leads to the stigma, even though one can lead a normal life with the virus if no one else knows.
“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.
“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,”
Joyce Dzidzor Mensah received treatment for her depression in Germany, and disclosed she continues to receive treatment at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. She recently remarried, and has another child from that union.