With the recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, many are beginning to forget how deadly HIV/AIDS can be also.However, Ghanaian actress cum singer, Joyce Dzidzor Nartey, shares the unfortunate turn of events in her life, and how it marked the ultimate beginning of a new dawn. The 27 year-old mother of two battled growing up. Her humble background challenged her and she pulled many strings to escape poverty. She was determined to part with poverty.
And she felt her skill in dancing could expose her to the entertainment world and possibly to stardom. The fund to pursue university education was not there but she believed in her skills.
Although she became vulnerable, exposed to rape and many vices the irony was that she ran to a church where salvation ought to beckon on her but doom followed.
A church member who was expected to preach salvation to her played A Patrick Sawyer to her. Just like the American Liberian who knew he was infected by the Ebora virus but who, full of evil, deliberately arrived Nigeria to spread it, the church member was infected by HIV virus and he decided to spread among members of the church.
And so Ghana’s Dzidzor Nartey contacted HIV in her church but today she is a star in many ways and the virus in her has been contained to the extent that she is living a normal life. She is HIV/AIDS Awareness Ambassador who has travelled to many parts of the world to create awareness on the virus and preach against stigmatisation. She is married and a happy mother.
Joyce is also a backup singer and has backed top Ghanaian musicians in her quest to make a profession.
Last year, she delved into movie production to intensify education and to complement the government’s effort to sensitize the public of the dangers of the disease. It is also to strengthen education on pre-marital sex and the dangers involved.
The movie titled, ‘My Cross Roads’ featured herself, and top Ghanaian film stars like Ekow Smith Asante, John Dumelo and Vicky Zugah. She also has a new movie in the market titled, “Jewel of the Waters”which she is using to further propagate her campaign against the spread of the HIV virus.
Interestingly, for the past seven years, Joyce has been living with the disease and on anti-retroviral therapy. She tells her story on DSTV’s AfricaMagic channel.
Living with HIV virus
I have lived with HIV/AIDS virus for seven years now. I contacted the disease in 2007. But I’m just a normal person. When people meet me and tend to find out how I’m feeling, I always tell them I’m a normal person.
As a matter of fact, I visited a school to educate the students. After talking to them they were keen to test for HIV. I also joined the queue and got tested but it was negative. It means one must stay with one’s medication forever. Regular medication can make it read that way. It doesn’t mean such a person is no longer a career.
How she contacted the disease
I contacted the disease in 2007, through a member of my church. I was to spend a night with him in his house. When he removed his clothes, I saw some kind of rashes all over his body. I was terrified, as I innocently asked him why he was like that
. He covered up, saying it was a minor skin infection and that it was nothing serious. But when he wanted to make love to me, I insisted that he must used condom. He told me that he didn’t like using condom.
However, when I insisted, he agreed but he never used it. He removed it while entering into me. We did it several times that night. After few weeks, I became pregnant for him. When I told him, I was pregnant, he advised me to abort the baby. But I refused, insisting on keeping the baby.
He later warned me that if insisted, I would have myself to blame in future. I never knew what he meant until I was diagnosed HIV positive. He also infected other ladies in the church before he died.
Growing up was in a very poor background. I discovered my love for music and dance. I was very ambitious, passionate about my dance skills. All efforts to get help to go to school failed. I was vulnerable, most times raped. I had to attend all kinds of events in my neighbourhood to exhibit my skills in dancing. In my case, there was no one to confide in. I hawked all kinds of things to make ends meet’.
Why she became HIV/AIDS Awareness advocate
I was driven by the need to help other carriers of the HIV/AIDS virus. This is because most AIDS patients are brought to the hospital when they are almost dead. Victims find it difficult to undergo medical test to determine their HIV/AIDS status.
I realised when people get to know about their HIV status at the early stages and they are put on medication, they wouldn’t die. They would live their normal lives. So, I decided to use myself as an example. That was what motivated me to begin the campaign against HIV/AIDS virus.
Platform and the benefits
I started sensitising the people on the streets. I went to a business district in Accra, and my purpose of going to the area was to share my story, as well as sell some copies of my music which I had on CD to enable me realise some money to feed myself.
The first person I approached when I got there shouted, and never allowed me to utter a word. The moment I mentioned I was HIV positive, he shouted at me, and warned me to leave the place immediately. But I wasn’t discouraged.
Later, I went to Dacuma, another area. At the place, whenever there was traffic congestion, I would start to tell my story, “I’m HIV positive, you have to be very careful with your life,” I would start.
In addition, I had copies of my CD, but nobody was buying them from me. Some people thought I was lying, and that was when I met a certain pastor in the a traffic. I was moving from one vehicle to another, sharing my story with who cared to listen. When this pastor heard me, he parked and was ready to listen to me.
Then, he was running a TV programme in Amsterdam. At that moment, he took my contact, and later, he sent me some money to process my International Passport. He told me that he had a TV station as well as a radio station in Amsterdam, and he would want me to come over there and share my story the way I did in the traffic. Without hesitation, I applied for visa and travelled to Amsterdam in 2010. That was how my story changed.
Sharing her story on TV
A Ghanaian TV host, popularly known as KSA invited me to his programme, “Future Leaders” to share my story on air. I rejected the idea, insisting that I could only speak in schools and churches.
I told him that appearing on his show would be a very difficult one for me. But he insisted, advising that I should be bold about it. When I finally agreed to go on air, I requested that my face be covered as well as my voice distorted. He agreed to my condition, and I went on air to share my story. But then, I was still afraid to unveil my face to the world because of the stigma that is associated with the disease.
That was how I went on air for the first time in Ghana to share my story. It went on like that, until I suddenly made up my mind to come out. The reason being that I needed to educate the general public, and in addition,I realised that if you have a talent and you don’t have money, it would be very difficult for one to make head way in life.
So, I pondered over it and resolved within myself to come out. It was my belief that it would draw attention to me and by so doing, I could start singing, or acting for people to reckon with my talent. So, I saw two opportunities at the same time; educating people as well as getting exposure for my musical career. That’s why I became popular.
When she returned from Amsterdam
I returned from Amsterdam to continue what I started in Ghana. I was invited by different organisations. Later, I travelled again to speak on the topic “30 years of HIV, the way forward.”In 2012, I went for the AIDS conference in America.
Recently, I was in the UK, where I premiered my movie, “My Cross Roads” which captures my story. The movie was first premiered at the National Theatre in Ghana and it recorded a huge turn out of dignitaries. The storyline of the movie is basically about me. It’s a true life story of Joyce Dzidzor Nartey but currently, I have a new movie in the market titled, “Jewel of the water.”
HIV Husband and wife
Before we got married, my husband was educated about the deadly disease. But he is also a carrier of the disease. At the moment, medically both of us are negative to HIV virus. This is because we have been put on medication for long.
But that does not mean, we should stop taking our medication. Even though we test negative now, we keep taking our medication. We had one child together who did not test positive to HIV because of the medication.
Life after contacting HIV/AIDS virus
That’s not the end of the world for any carrier of the HIV/AIDS virus. There is life after contacting the deadly disease. The HIV virus can be found in the semen in the man, and not in the sperm because the sperm is what goes to form a baby. It doesn’t carry the HIV virus, but the semen is what contains the HIV virus.
So, HIV positive man who is on medication can share sexual activity with an HIV negative woman, and they both can produce an HIV negative baby. You can see that there is life after contacting the HIV virus.
HIV positive man can marry an HIV negative woman, and they can still make babies without him infecting the wife or the baby, just as an HIV positive woman can also marry an HIV negative man. There are a lot of couple today who wouldn’t come out to share their stories, but who are living with HIV/AIDS virus. They are keeping the secret to themselves.
Marriage for me was normal but they say, in every marriage there are challenges. Things have happened in the past which I wouldn’t want to talk about here. Talking about the stigma, there was one day, my seven-year old son came from school and told me to stop that HIV thing that I am doing. According to him, his friends said, they wouldn’t play with him because his mum is HIV positive. There are challenges but life must go on.