Ghana’s most popular HIV awareness ambassador, Mrs Joyce Dzidzor Mensah Nartey on Monday December 15, confessed she never tested positive for HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS. She made the declaration after several years of campaigning to raise awareness for the disease and to end stigmatisation of people living with the virus.
The Ghana AIDS Commission engaged Joyce Dzidzor Mensah Nartey and three other people living with HIV in 2011 for a campaign called the “Heart to Heart” to end stigmatisation and mother-to-child transmission. But her engagement with the campaign was terminated November 2012. She alleged that Ghana AIDS Commission never verified her claim of being HIV positive.
Before joining the “Heart to Heart” campaign, Joyce Dzidzor Mensah was campaigning to raise awareness for the disease, using “her story” to encourage voluntary counselling and testing. Churches schools and groups gave her platform to “educate” young people. She received considerable media attention and commendation both locally and internationally for her effort.
But after all that, Joyce Dzidzor Mensah declared Monday she has never been HIV positive. “I knew the truth would come out some day and I think the time is now”, she declared. After her “confession” she has asked for forgiveness. She has called on the Ghanaian public to consider that her campaign has contributed to improve the general attitude to people living with HIV and has given them hope also.
However, the GAC has rubbished her claim that she was never HIV positive. It said the evidence of the HIV status of the three persons it recruited for the “Heart to Heart” campaign was documented at the various health centres they accessed treatment.
Additionally, they were all registered members of NAP+ Ghana, the Network of Persons Living with HIV. Joyce has been a member of NAP+ since 2007, the GAC disclosed, and continued that there is evidence to support her initial claim of being HIV positive since 2007 as she has been benefitting from anti-retroviral therapy from health facilities in Accra.
According to the Ghana AIDS Commission, it formally terminated the contract with Joyce Dzidzor Mensah in November 2012 on account of breach of her terms of contract.
Public reactions to the news have been mixed. Some think she has supported the fight against stigmatisation. Others think her disclosure may disturb persons living with the virus. Meanwhile a group of people living with the virus has also come out to deny her claim that she is HIV negative. Some members of the group NAP+ have insisted that they have ever shared their anti-retroviral medications with Joyce. Rev John Azumah, one of the “Heart to Heart” ambassadors, said she has ever shared her medicines with him when his were not on hand.