Living positively with HIV: Nigerian entrepreneur grows her business, cares for herself and her family, and mentors others

 {Photo credit: Mary Dauda/MSH}After nearly losing her business, Adekeye Dorcas now mentors HIV positive pregnant mothers in her community and trains apprentices in the art of nylon production.Photo credit: Mary Dauda/MSH

A trader skilled in the art of nylon production, Adekeye Dorcas once generated enough income to provide for her family. During a routine visit to the health center in Kwara state, she tested positive for HIV and was immediately offered counseling services and antiretroviral therapy (ART). The growing demands on her time to travel on open clinic days for ART and the cost of transportation began to threaten her family’s financial stability. She knew that adherence to her treatment was key to allowing her to live positively and ensuring that her husband remained HIV negative. She also knew that her child, who was also HIV positive, must remain on treatment to lead a healthy life. Unable to keep up with the demands of her business, Dorcas was eventually forced to discontinue the nylon trade, spending the little income her family had on the long trek to the health center.

[Adekeye Dorcas and her two children at their home in Kwara state, Nigeria.] {Photo credit: Mary Dauda/MSH}Adekeye Dorcas and her two children at their home in Kwara state, Nigeria.Photo credit: Mary Dauda/MSH

Determined to improve her situation, Dorcas joined a support group facilitated by the Care and Treatment for Sustained Support (CaTSS) Project, funded by PEPFAR through USAID and implemented by MSH. Every month, the support group of 50 women living with HIV comes together to discuss issues around their health, nutrition, and HIV treatment. They also learn how to improve their families’ financial security through a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) forum, which brings women together to pool their savings and have a source of lending funds. In 2014, with the assistance of the CaTSS support group, Dorcas enrolled and was approved for a loan of I0,000 naira after saving a minimum of 500 naira for an agreed period of six months, allowing her to buy the raw materials she needed to resume her nylon production business.

[Women meet during a support group for people living with HIV to share experiences and encourage positive living.]{Photo credit: Saidu Bulus/MSH}Women meet during a support group for people living with HIV to share experiences and encourage positive living.Photo credit: Saidu Bulus/MSH

The income she has generated makes it possible for Dorcas to support her own health needs and those of her family while boosting production of her business. She has paid back her loan and is now comfortably commuting to the health facility to access medicine for herself and her child.

Thanks to the VSLA and the support group initiative, she has been able to expand her customer base and produce larger quantities of nylon. “I had once lost hope, but now I can smile again. I also want to thank the CaTSS project for this great support,” said Dorcas.

Today, Dorcas is a leader within her community. She serves as the secretary of her support group and mentors HIV positive pregnant women to help them adhere to their treatment, preserve their own health, and prevent transmission to their children. She also continues to excel in her trade and has successfully trained apprentices in the art of nylon production.

The CaTSS project strengthens local leadership and builds capacity to reach epidemic control through 46 similar support groups across the Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, and Kwara states.