Stories of Impact
Learn the impact of our work from stories of people we support and work with
Moud, from Zimbabwe, tested HIV-positive in 2009 after which she lost her mother, family, job, and divorced her husband which led her to a spiral of depressive thoughts -
‘’It was not easy and I went through a lot of self-blame, bitterness and pain in her heart ’’ - Moud says
She was going through a very difficult time and that is when her aunt introduced her to Beyond Stigma’s work based on The Work by Byron Katie in 2014 which helped her feel less isolated.
Imagine this. You are having the best day outside with your friends, the sun is shining, and everyone is in a great mood. You went out cycling and swam in the ocean for the first time in a while. You are lying in the warmth of the sun while joking around with your friends. You come back from this fun day, in a great mood until you look into the mirror. That’s when you think the words “I look terrible, I’m fat and my hair looks awful. I can’t believe I looked like this all day.” Just like that, the day is shattered, and you are in a bad mood.
Those with coronavirus can also experience self-stigma, the negative judgements towards oneself. COVID-19 self-stigma can make people have self-blame, shame, self-loathing and even suicidal thoughts. Having survived COVID-19 myself, I recognized that even I found myself hesitant to tell people about my illness and withdrew from talking to friends. I told myself I wasn’t careful enough and if I had just been ‘better’ then this wouldn’t have happened to me. I became ill close to the holidays and so I felt a lot of anger towards myself when I had to spend Christmas alone.
Vongai is abundantly clear about what self-stigma means to her. It is, she says, "when I blame myself, I limit myself to certain things, I am ashamed, I isolate myself, I get depression, I'm not confident of anything. I feel inferior." All this because, at the age of 39, she was diagnosed with HIV. She was unable to work properly, convinced herself that people were always sneering at her, and could not speak to anyone.
Softly-spoken Nyasha lives in Zimbabwe. She discovered that she was HIV positive in 2000, and initially her diagnosis sent her into a tailspin. She went into her shell, didn't speak to anyone and lost a dangerous amount of weight - all things that would worsen her condition, not improve it. Even at her workplace, she would simply collect her cup of tea during work breaks instead of socialising with her colleagues as she had always done before. Her condition made her paranoid, convinced that everyone was talking and laughing about her behind her back. But it was not the disease itself that caused her to be like this, but the sense of social stigma that came with it.
Julien Chiwunda is 59 years old, a widow, and the mother of four grown-up children and four grandchildren. Her husband passed away from HIV 20 years ago, and she herself tested positive for HIV in 2003.
As with so many people living with HIV, it was not the condition itself that made her so unwell, but the self-stigma that came with it.
Sylvia explained how The Work has impacted her for better adherence to the treatment and to love positively. While she was feeling unequal to her colleagues at work, personal journey made her realize that she is as important as any other person at work as they all share the common aspect of ‘wisdom’ and it has nothing to do with HIV status.