A Ray of Hope: Helping Vulnerable Groups Surmount Stigmatization and Suicidal Ideation

A Ray of Hope: Helping Vulnerable Groups Surmount Stigmatization and Suicidal Ideation

Stigmatization against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) continues to be one of the major factors that are inextricably associated with more comorbidities such as neurocognitive disorders and various mental health issues. These had continually placed PLWHA at higher risk of suicidal ideation.

41-year-old Mirabel is one of the Female Sex Workers (FSW) living with HIV in Kaduna state. Mirabel who lost her mother to HIV/AIDS over a decade ago was identified through a robust sexual network testing strategy and enrolled into care for HIV treatment and support services at the one of the One-Stop Shop (OSS) facilities managed by Society for Family Health (SFH) in Kaduna state.

Upon enrolment into care, Mirabel actively participated in and devotedly attended the monthly support group meetings facilitated by the OSS staff. The support group meetings had been helping members to share common health problems relating to HIV and AIDS. Members of the group come together to share experiences, get information, and provide emotional supports to one another that enable them to cope with their condition.

However, few months later, Mirabel started defaulting on Antiretroviral treatment. Her absence in support group meetings and refusal to show-up for her clinical appointments were intentional as she consistently told the case managers that she preferred to die than to live in trauma. Mirabel stopped being an active member of the support group meeting and discontinued her medications. All efforts by the OSS case managers to reach out and get Mirabel back to treatment were unsuccessful.

Despite this challenge, the OSS team remained determined in following up to get her back to treatment. In trying to ascertain what the possible causes of the interruption in treatment were from Mirabel, they found out that she had been traumatized due to excessive stigmatization from family and friends. The stigma and discrimination affected Mirabel’s emotional well-being and mental health. She had always internalized the stigma experience and began to develop a negative self-image. She lost self-confidence and began to nurture suicidal thoughts. 

Following meetings with the clinical psychologist and case managers from the OSS, Mirabel immediately commenced Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and a Reduction of Access to lethal means counselling strategy. Couple of weeks later, Mirabel began to become stable and more active in the support group sessions. She also started showing consistency in her clinical appointments. Mirabel opined that she no longer nursed thoughts to commit suicide. She now feels that she can still live the best of her life for years to come.

“I am happy to be collecting my drugs in this office, not other places like government hospitals. Before now, I thought I was going to die due to stigmatization from family and friends. I was struggling to take my drugs but after discussing with the case managers and the clinical psychologist, I was reassured of  the importance of taking my medications. I no longer need encouragement to be more compliant  in taking my drugs  because I know how the viral load will affect me,” Mirabel, Kaduna, August 2022.

“I am going home a happy person today and will no longer be sad and want to die,” Mirabel, Kaduna, August 2022