Priest narrate on how he contracted HIV in 2001, while helping victims of a car accident, something happened that changed the life of Father Stuart Kaoma Bweupe.
He contracted HIV. The Kabwe based Anglican father is now living positively.
He was born on March 9, 1969 at Ndola Central Hospital.
Fr Bweupe is the fourth born in a family of 15 and says his late sister died of an HIV related illness in 2001.
He says his family gives him total love, care and support as far as his health is concerned.
Fr Bweupe says despite everything that has happened, interventions and what has been done to fight HIV and AIDS, stigma and discrimination still exists.
“… I am the only clergy public and open about my HIV status,” he says.
He says HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination is an inborn concept and it is a dilemma that was planted during the genesis of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
“People living with HIV in their blood and taking drugs every day is viewed as not being normal by society, remember the before and after adverts. This picture has not changed in people’s minds thus HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination will always be experienced,” he says.
Fr Bweupe recalls very well how he got the virus.
He says sometime in June 2001, he was driving from Mansa going to Mkushi and at Chengelo turnoff, found a road traffic accident.
“And when I stopped, I found that there were six passengers on a Hilux van. I was the first one to stop with one of my workers from the mission. When I stopped my aim was to at least help those people who were injured but breathing into the mission Landrover.
I got them out but there was a certain lady who came and stood by watching us, she said ‘Father why do you have to help these people, don’t you know that there is HIV these days.’ I said I needed to help them and get them to Mkushi Hospital.
Right behind me there was another friend who stopped and he said ‘ba father, let us help these people.’ I had injured myself in the process of helping these people. I never knew anything about it then but it kept on ringing in my head that ‘ba father there is HIV these days.’ The windscreen was broken so we were trying to get them out.
There was blood because eight people died on the spot including two children,” he says “I took these people to Mkushi General Hospital. This is where I got it because there is another person who helped those people and also got injured. This person is also HIV positive and is on medication. I told him that the same thing that happened to him happened to me so he said ‘so ba father kuafwilisha abantu ( helping people ) made us get HIV.
I told him ‘we help people and we don’t know whether they are living or not but as long as we did my part.’ I am 100 percent that’s where I got it but it does not matter how I got it.”
He says HIV and AIDS has been dynamic since the 1980s and the advent of improved antiretroviral drugs has had a negative effect on adherence to medication.
Fr Bweupe says people living with HIV have developed a “I don’t care” attitude as the majority have reached HIV undetected levels.
“A blind eye has been shown toward the fight HIV and AIDS as the condition is now taken as normal. In 2007 September, I took my first my antiretroviral tablet (Trimune 40), I went public to help after seeing how much people living with HIV suffered, despite my recovery from the stroke I suffered due to low immunity as a result of HIV the church and some members of the public still have an impression that am ‘sick’. HIV and AIDS stigma is real and this is the reason why people living with the HIV virus in their blood fear to disclose their status,” he says.
Fr Bweupe says the era of coronavirus has covered the page of HIV and AIDS awareness in the minds of people and the Ministry of Health in Zambia emphasis is now more on COVID19 guidelines then the safer sex practices.
He says the fact is that HIV is not curable whilst coronavirus, TB and other curable diseases are seems have taken the front bench in health awareness matters.
“Attention on HIV and AIDS programmes will in future be history as funding of these awareness programs will be seen as less important. HIV and AIDS level will be increasing but will not receive the request attention because of other diseases sure as cervical cancer and coronavirus,” he says.
He says he never regrets coming out in the open about his status as he is still fighting stigma and discrimination.
Fr Bweupe says he has four children but the two elderly boys have since passed on.
“… yes … stigma and discrimination is still there … in Church I am the only clergy public and open about my HIV status.”
He says his life has been a challenge.
“I sometimes feel I am not worth to be a priest because HIV is a condition that most people think is mainly for prostitutes and being a man of the collar, my condition attracts alot of questions,” he says.
Fr Bweupe says he is still single, officially divorced and the church and courts cleared the matter in October 2015.
He is assistant Parish priest at Kabwe South Parish town centre and Diocesan data officer.
Credit: Amplifying Voice For All
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