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S-T-I-G-M-A-T-I-S-A-T-I-O-N!

Posted by By INNOCENT DURU on 2008/06/09 | Views: 2539 |

S-T-I-G-M-A-T-I-S-A-T-I-O-N!


Despite the massive campaigns by government and non governmental agencies to sensitize the public on the need to eschew any form of discrimination against people living with HIV, the recent ejection of Abigail Atirene from the house she got from the share of her late fatherís property by her siblings because of her status, may after all mean that the campaigns are not achieving the desired results.

Despite the massive campaigns by government and non governmental agencies to sensitize the public on the need to eschew any form of discrimination against people living with HIV, the recent ejection of Abigail Atirene from the house she got from the share of her late fatherís property by her siblings because of her status, may after all mean that the campaigns are not achieving the desired results.

Bemused by her siblingís recent aggressive actions, Abigail reveals to Sunday Sun that her being infected with HIV is no longer news as she has severally declared her status publicly and in the media since she was clinically discovered to be suffering from the ailment.

In a very sober voice she said she had since accepted her fate and learned to live a normal life until her siblings started stigmatizing and humiliating her because of her status. To the family, as one of them says to Sunday Sun, she is the black sheep of their family whose presence in the familyís house constituted shame to them.

To rid the family of the shame, she was supposedly bringing to them, she was recently thrown out of the family house to find shelter among people of her class that are on their way out of this life. To further subject her to hard times that would apparently quicken her transition to the world beyond, Sunday Sun gathered that her siblings have also gone ahead to eject the tenant occupying the shop she got as part of her share of her late fatherís property.

Last weekend, members of the Human Rights And Justice Work Group led by Prince Goodluck Obi, staged a solidarity rally to Abigailís family house at 201, Old Ojo Road, Agboju Lagos to condemn what they described as gross violation of her fundamental human rights to live and possess the inheritance legally given to her by the larger family and wondered why the family which supposed to give her the affection that she needed to get over the trauma of her status chose to be digging her grave.
In a chat with Sunday Sun, Abigail narrated the genesis of the problem and the challenges she has been facing thereafter:

"When my father died, I fully assisted in the burial. Nobody kicked against it. It was when sharing of property came that they said because I am a female and HIV positive, I would not take part in the sharing of my late fatherís property. They went to the whole tenants to blackmail me saying that I am not a true child of my father because of my status. Ever since then, we have been trying to resolve it in a family way.

My uncles called them to a meeting and requested that I must be there for the matter to be settled. When we went home for the meeting, our uncles resolved the issue and shared the property. In my place, Urhobo, every first child represents the motherís position, especially in a polygamous family like mine. My father had four wives and I am the first child of my mother. Our property was handed over to me. I have the documents handed over to me by my uncles. Thereafter, two of my immediate siblings have teamed up with others from the other wives to humiliate me because of my status and for being a female.

My uncles have called them to educate them on the issue all to no avail. The flat upstairs and the shop downstairs were given to my motherís children. As their eldest, I wanted peace to reign and as a result of that, I divided the property and gave the flat which is about N150,000 per annum to 3 of them while myself and our last born took the shop which rent is about N100,000 per annum. But Charles would not agree. He took over my personal room and connived with our eldest brother in the family to throw me out of the house.

The day they threw my things out, NTA news crew was here to report the matter. Since I have been thrown out of the house, I have no permanent place I live again. I squat around. Even the tenant I let out the shop to was ejected. The most annoying thing is that they did not give her any summon to appear in court. They just went to do there and threw the woman out. I live solely on the rent I collect from her, but how do I make ends meet now that sheí s been ejected?

Asked what the situation was before the fatherís death, Abigail added that
I was in good term with them before our father died. I was staying in the house until after he died. My father knew I am infected but he did not eject me because of that. Even when I came out on television to declare my status, my father praised my courage. But since his demise, my siblings said I am a disgrace to the family, humiliated and eventually ejected me from the house."

Continuing she said " Life has been tough ever since I was ejected, because, apart from the anti retroviral drugs been given to us by the government, we have to buy some other drugs and feed very well in order to live well. The most important thing for any infected person is to have a shelter. The home is the most important place for a positive person. If the home denies you, how do you take care of yourself? The home should be conducive enough to accommodate us. I am just one of the over 4 million people living with it in Nigeria, there are so many others who are suffering similar fate and dying in the process."

Abigailís ejected tenant, Mrs Erhimona corroborated Abigailís claims with details of how her goods valued at over N5000,000 were destroyed by Abigailís siblings.
"After the death of their Father, the whole building was shared, the family of Abigail gave me letter that I should be paying to Abigail, that my own apartment belongs to Abigail. Then we went to the elder brother at Frank Street to confirm and they said that I should be paying to her.

So I started paying. After two years of paying to her, her younger brother named Charles came and said that I should henceforth be paying to him. I said he should go and bring a written note or come with Abigail for me to believe him. After that, we went to the family and they said that I shouldnít mind him and should continue paying to Abigail. Suddenly, on the 9th of May around 4 oíclock, I saw Charles with some people and uniform men; they entered my shop, destroyed and threw all my wares away. The goods they destroyed are about N5000,000.

3 days after, we went to their elder brother to report the matter. As we were about narrating the matter to him, Charles surfaced again with some policemen and arrested me. When we got to the station, the officer in charge ordered him to return my goods to me. Up till now, he has not done that and has gone ahead to lock up the shop. I am now suffering with my 8 children since I have no other source of livelihood again. I have been a tenant in the building for the past 22 years without owing a dime. There was a time Charles came to me and said that Abigail is HIV positive and would soon die and as a result I should stop paying to her. I told him that I wouldnít do such because she deserves the care of all. Many a times since they ejected her from the house, she has had no roof over her head again. Sometimes I fed and sheltered her in this shop from which they have thrown me out.

Efforts to speak with Charles, Abigailís brother alleged to mastermind the trouble proved abortive as he was said to have left when the protesters stormed their residence. But the eldest son, who gave his name as Princewill, denied knowing anybody called Abigail.

"I donít know anybody called Abigail. I only know her as Gladys. I donít even know whether she is positive or not. All I know is that she is the black sheep of the family, you can quote me anywhere. She was the cause of our fatherís death. I am not even aware that she was ejected from our house. I didnít join hands in anything of such. It is their own motherís childrenís affair."
His assertions were however denied by Abigail who said she also bears Gladys. Armed with the documents backing her rightful ownership of the property she alleged they took from her, she challenged them to provide theirs.

The convener of the rally prince obi condemned the siblings action which he said was a serious defiance of all the campaigns that infected persons must not be discriminated against. He warned them to return the property he said was illegally taken from her within a space of time after which the group would be forced to take a more drastic action against them.

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