Fighting for dignity for those living with HIV

Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 18:57

Since the death of her husband from an AIDS-related illness in 1997, Françoise Kayiti has been campaigning for respect for the dignity of people living with HIV.

Françoise is in charge of three organisations: Patients Support Group (GRAM), Tumaini Association (which means hope in Kiswahili) and her newest group, the AIDS Union for life (UNIVIE SIDA) of which she is chair.

Born in Bukavu in 1965, she has one child.

Following her husband’s death, Françoise withdrew from society, wanting to be alone and avoiding contact with people.

“I didn’t want to believe that my husband had died of AIDS. I preferred to believe that he had been poisoned. Several months later a doctor told me that I was sick as well. This came late because I had been in denial for so long,” she recalls.

I didn’t want to believe that my husband had died of AIDS. I preferred to believe that he had been poisoned.

Françoise vowed to challenge the ignorance surrounding HIV and AIDS. Through the different organisations she is connected with she aims to bring people living with HIV and AIDS out of the shadows.

With the support of ActionAid’s Reducing VAW project, UNIVIE SIDA has enabled women living with HIV to take charge of their own lives through the provision of a dressmaking training centre, counselling sessions and access to medical services. They can now make a living as seamstresses and are able to consult health services when necessary.

Among the difficulties she has encountered in her quest to raise awareness and support people living with HIV, Françoise notes that being a woman has been a significant obstacle.

“When I had to meet certain financial backers I had to ask some of the men to represent me,” she explains.

Today Françoise Kayiti is considered one of the most active women in the field of HIV and AIDS in the whole of the DRC. With the support of the Reducing VAW project, and thanks to her personal courage, she has brought hope to, and restored the dignity of, thousands of women living with HIV.