Providing health care in rural communities in Cameroon is a daunting task. This process becomes more complex in a war torn area like Bambui, North West Region of Cameroon. With the emergence of the crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, the HIV-Free staff have braved challenging situations, devised different coping mechanisms and strategies to meet the needs of the people they are called to serve.
On March 28, 2019, Evelyn, one of the HIV-Free North West Index-Testers received a call from a Contact who had resisted to be tested for HIV but finally made up his mind to get tested. The job of an index tester entails; following-up the list of sexual contacts and/or injecting drug partners willingly given to them by a client who tested HIV positive for eventual HIV testing. On this fateful day, the index contact gave details of his location and invited Evelyn to help him know his status.
“I was so excited to have succeeded to break the chain of HIV at this end; I knew well that whatever the outcome, my client will now make informed decisions. This drive was the motivation that pushed me to take the bull by the horns.”
“We left for Bambui – Tubah Sub Division – where he directed that we will find him. We were still on transit, heading to the rendezvous point when we heard some thunderous male voices ordering our bike to stop; “Freeze! Freeze!” the voices thundered. The automatic stop of the bike almost landed us on the ground. They asked us to present our ID Cards. We quietly followed this heavily-armed unknown man to where we were ordered to throw our National ID Cards to the ground under duress.”
“After thorough examination, the guys searched our bags. To corroborate our story, they asked us to call the client we came to test for HIV to come over. Without a clue of our company, he came carrying his farming machete which made his interrogation so intense. I tried to recall the strategies given to us by management to tackle such situations and I guess it worked as we succeeded to not only ensure that our index contact knew his HIV status, but also, 6 of the armed men also volunteered to know their HIV status. As difficult as the experience was, I was glad to have helped 7 persons know their HIV status, which is the starting point of breaking the chain of HIV”.
Like Evelyn, over a hundred service providers in the North West Region risk their lives on a daily basis to offer health care at the door steps of its community members.