November 29 2012

World AIDS Day – A new generation a new approach

In a fashion and design school in Burkina Faso, Djamila runs her favourite fabric through a sewing machine. The apprentice and entrepreneur is passionate about dressmaking. She is a role model in the community. At 19-years old, she became known as Doctor Djamila. What makes her unique is what she says about HIV.

Aller au show is the term given to an evening out in the landlocked West African country. In the city of Bobo Dioulasso, it provides people of all ages with a reason to party and celebrate their culture. For fashion-conscious girls like Djamila, it provides the perfect occasion to wear her own beautiful creations. It is also a place where boys meet girls, where friendships are made and relationships blossom.

A fresh apprach to HIV/AIDS ©C.Guenda
Aller au show - Djamila has something to share with her peers on the subject of HIV/AIDS © C.Guenda

Cried upon receiving the results

 A year ago, during one of these “shows” she met a young man and eventually had unprotected sex with him. Sometime later she suspected that she was pregnant. To compound matters, a friend told her of a rumour that was circulating - the young man was HIV positive. 

On her SOS mother's advice, Djamila had a pregnancy test conducted by the village nurse. “The risk you took does not stop with the fear of being pregnant,” warned the nurse, Mr Millogo. “In addition to the risk of HIV infection there are other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).”  A HIV test and various screening was subsequently arranged.

Djamila and her mother cried upon receiving the results. Was she pregnant? The answer was no. Was she HIV positive? The first test said no. However, she could not be completely sure as she had to wait three months for a final test to confirm this. STD tests indicated that she was lucky. But the following three months were an ordeal that triggered something in the young woman. 

“That day I felt fear and desperation squeezing my stomach; words were ringing in my ears,” she said. She vividly remembers how pictures of STDs affected her thinking. As she relayed her anguish to her friends in the SOS Youth House where she lived – she sensed something positive. Yes, they all learned the theory about HIV and AIDS in school, but she knew that her peers would learn a lot more from her personal experience. Even though her final test confirmed that she had not contracted HIV, she was not finished with the subject. 

During consultations with her nurse, Sibiri Millogo, Djamila learned more about HIV/AIDS, STDs, unwanted pregnancy and the transmission of disease from mother-to-child. Telling her own story and showing the STD pictures that shocked her, the young dressmaker became a phenomenal and highly influential advocate for preventative health among young people in Bobo Dioulasso.  She produced a video to convey her story to a wider audience. This alone justifies why she is affectionately referred to as Doctor Djamila.