From Cameroon to Canada, Felicitas’ Story of Courage

From Cameroon to Canada, Felicitas’ Story of Courage

April 5, 2024
Self-Testing Kit Project Coordinator at HIV Edmonton
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I have been living with HIV for almost a decade. I was infected by my husband, who has since passed away. I have two kids, and they are both HIV-negative.

The Road to Resilience

When I was first diagnosed, I felt overwhelmed and uncertain about my future. However, with the support of my family, friends, healthcare team, and accessibility to HIV treatment, I was able to manage my condition effectively.

Challenging Barriers, Embracing Care

When I was diagnosed in my country, Cameroon, I faced some challenges accessing care. There were false or selfish medical professionals who sold ARV treatment for high prices, even though most public hospitals provide ARV treatment for a low cost.

However, you still had to pay a small fee every time you picked up your medication. For most hospitals back then, your CD4 count needed to be less than 500 (I believe 300) to be eligible to take ARV. If your CD4 was higher than 300, you were provided a medication known as Bactrim to help prevent you from picking up any infections that could cause your CD4 to drop below 500.

Privacy in Care: A Silent Struggle

Aside from the cost and barriers to accessing treatment if your CD4 was above 300, another challenge was that nurses did not understand the concept of confidentiality.

As a result, many people would find out if you visited the HIV clinic because the nurses were chatty about it. Sometimes, they made remarks about how someone so good looking ended up with HIV.

Sometimes they would even tell you that you caught HIV because you were either a sex worker or you were living a promiscuous lifestyle.

A New Chapter of Support in Canada

In Canada, my experience has been very different regarding access to health care and confidentiality.

I have access to high-quality medical care and the latest antiretroviral drugs, which has allowed me to maintain my health and wellbeing. I am currently on Cabenuva, which is an injectable ARV. I take this once every two months and it is administered at the hospital where I am connected to care.

Finding Strength in Community

Despite my initial fears, I can live a fulfilling life. I found a supportive community through HIV support groups and advocacy organizations like the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) and HIV Edmonton, where I could openly discuss my experiences, fears, and challenges.

These connections provided me with a sense of belonging and understanding that helped me navigate the emotional and social aspects of living with HIV abroad.

Advocacy: Turning Pain into Purpose

Through my involvement with various support organizations, I have become an advocate for HIV awareness and destigmatization. I have shared my story at public events, participated in awareness campaigns, and worked with healthcare providers to improve education and support for those living with HIV.

Despite occasional setbacks and moments of doubt, my involvement in advocacy work and my strong support network has helped me maintain a positive outlook.

I have continued to pursue my passions, travel, and build meaningful relationships, knowing that I have the necessary resources and support to manage HIV and lead a fulfilling life in Canada.

Inspiring Change, One Story at a Time

I do hope that over time, I can become an inspiration to many others living with HIV and show that with the right support and access to resources, it is possible to thrive and live a healthy, fulfilling life, even with a chronic condition.

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