A ZAMBIAN professor living with HIV has found himself a life partner after going public about his HIV status.
Samson Tembo, 36, based in Kitwe and Nzila Kafwimbi met via the Times of Zambia column that tackles the subject as part of a campaign to reduce stigma and ignorance about the condition.
Professor Tembo’s wife to be also decided to go public about her HIV status soon after the two met and announced their intention to tie the knot next month.
He revealed that seven years after being divorced for being HIV positive and was advised by his colleague Yusuf Dodhia to use his iconic status in society and go public about his HIV status so that he could help in dealing with stigma.
“A few months ago, I made a call to a phone-in programme called Chat Box on Radio Phoenix where I said I am a Professor living with HIV and was looking for someone to marry who is also HIV positive.
“Soon after the programme, I received 82 text messages from HIV positive ladies asking if I can marry them. Then I was interviewed and my full story about my HIV status came out in the New Year’s Day AIDS Corner column in the Sunday Times and I received more than 2, 000 marriage inquiries,” he said.
He said that all these women were stigmatised as they could not go public about their HIV status.
Prof Tembo said it was through the marriage inquiries by text messages that he met Nzila whom he says also spoke passionately about HIV and how it was important that they should work together to help reduce or eradicate the stigma around HIV.
“Soon after my story in the Sunday Times, Nzila also decided to go public and her story also came out in the same newspaper column within January 2017. This was very encouraging not only to me but to our families and society in general.
It showed us how much stigma is attached to HIV because after her story was publicised, so many men started asking for her hand in marriage and yet they did not want to go public about their status,” he said.
As a result of his going public, he says at least 10, 000 people, students and non-students, have gone for HIV testing at the Copperbelt University alone while the institution’s AIDS Club membership was now in excess of 2, 000.
Nzila,38, and a mother of a son, Kapalu, said “our coming together is a story of love involving two people that feel they have an obligation to help the world fight stigma. People should go for testing, reveal your status and be happy.”
She appealed to fellow women to know their status and go public about it so that they could, among other issues, also meet men living with HIV to partner with in holy matrimony.
“When you test HIV positive, you must not despair. Don’t go into depression and as for couples, they should not start the blame game of who has brought HIV in the home but instead they should concentrate on treatment and encouraging others out there either to remain negative or adhere with the treatment ,” she said in a jovial mood.
Prof Tembo, a father of one son, Takondwa, said Nzila and their two children were now his family and was looking forward to their formalisation of their marriage through a wedding ceremony to be held in Ndola.
“We want people to dance to this HIV positive couple and we just want to be happy. Stigma and lack of testing are serious problems but we shall endeavour to fight them. HIV is not a disease but a condition,” he said amid cracking jokes of how many beautiful children he was looking forward to have with his new found love.