|© UNICEF video|
|Eric Nking (centre) and his wife Mary Mbeng (right), shown preparing a meal for their 10 children, are volunteers with Project Hope, a UNICEF-supported project in Cameroon that assists people living with HIV.|
By Chris Niles
NJINICOM, Cameroon, 1 July 2008 – Eric Nking and his wife Mary Mbeng are raising 10 children. Besides four of their own, they take care of the four children of Eric’s deceased sister and two other orphaned children who are unrelated to them.
Mr. Nking and Ms. Mbeng live in Njinicom, in Cameroon’s North West Province, where a small garden and some livestock provides an income for their large family. Both the husband and wife are HIV-positive. And for both, the diagnosis was a very difficult time in their lives.
“I felt sad a very long time before I came back to my normal self,” said Mr. Nking.
“I almost committed suicide,” added Ms. Mbeng.
‘I’ve accepted living with HIV’
The couple has come to terms with HIV because of Project Hope, a comprehensive, community-based HIV prevention and support programme. After their diagnosis, they joined a Project Hope support group.
Mr. Nking now volunteers as a counsellor, teaching others what Project Hope has taught him – that a fulfilling, healthy life is possible with HIV. Ms. Mbeng is training to become a teacher.
“I have plans for my future,” said Mr. Nking. “I’ve accepted living with HIV and I have plans for myself.”
Outreach in the marketplace
Project Hope’s outreach work often starts in the local marketplace, where people gather not only to shop but to exchange information.
|© UNICEF video|
|Project Hope’s outreach begins in the Njinicom marketplace, where young people talk to other young people about how to avoid HIV.|
The Market Outreach Programme is one place where young people can talk openly about HIV.
“It’s something that’s been developed throughout Cameroon,” said UNICEF Regional AIDS Advisor Eric Mercier. “It’s a very simple way of engaging young people, and for them to make changes about risky behaviour and ways to address risky situations.”
Shedding the stigma of AIDS
Project Hope rallies full community support to address HIV/AIDS through health centres with HIV screening, maternal and paediatric care, as well as training for medical and counselling staff.
The lives of Mr. Nking and Ms. Mbeng are a vibrant testimony to the optimism that Project Hope has brought to Njinicom. It’s an optimism that inspires openness, and a willingness to talk and shed the stigma of HIV and AIDS.
”People should be ready to talk more,” said Mr. Nkin, ”because if you know about yourself and can talk about yourself, you will not be ashamed of anything.”