Emmanuel Michael Ugochukwu, a Nigerian Christian, has taken it upon himself to bring happiness to victims of HIV in the country by matchmaking them and having them go into marriage after.
Ugochukwu said this difficult task started with the idea and knowledge of his religion.
“It started from a religious point of view…it started from my church, I learnt how to reach out to these people. A lot of them are into drugs,” he told Lebo Diseko of Newsday in an audio interview while noting how, in Nigeria, once a person is up to 30 years, he or she faces pressure from people to get married.
On how he came about the need, he said he had a first-hand experience when he visited a hospital through his church.
“I saw these people being neglected and treated the way I don’t like.
“So I thought the best is for them to have feelings for each other and start growing.
“All I needed (to) do is a write-up; people would read and become interested. They would call me and show their interests,” he said.
He said the main reason people accept to be match-made is for them to be happy.
“Every good thing has a bad (side) and every bad thing has a good (side) but I look at it from the good point of view,” he told the interviewer while mentioning the marriage of two HIV victims, Jide and Taiwo, as a case in point.
On his part, Jide, who related how he met Taiwo, said he first called her on the phone but did not know what to tell her.
He said he asked the lady how she came to know she had HIV and they soon became friends and later got married.
They have been married for almost five years now and have two kids.
Taiwo said the marriage has been awesome and that she was happy.
“At the initial stage when I was told I was positive, I had a boyfriend and I told him this was what was going on,” she said adding that the man shouted and declared that it can’t be possible.
“He was overwhelmed; he cried all through the night to my greatest surprise. He made life miserable for me,” she revealed.
According to Taiwo, the boyfriend rejected her. “He even called me and said: ‘I can’t eat your food again; I don’t want you to cut your flesh and put your blood in my food. You know you are a walking corpse.
“It was a tough experience.”
Michael barely charges anything for his service. Despite this, he says he faces a lot of criticisms mainly from religious houses in the country.
He is however not bothered about it because he sees it as ignorance on the part of the critics.
He says Nigeria has a peculiar case of having a mindset that encourages stigmatization.
According to him, HIV victims are not walking corpses, but human beings.
“They only have a virus and need love more than any other person,” he says.