"You can have your sexuality...you don't have to lose it because you have HIV"
People tend to think that contracting HIV can spell the end of their sex lives, but HIV-positive Africans of all ages are now being urged to reclaim their sexuality and live healthy, normal lives.
"I got this [HIV] through sex, so [I thought] my sexuality was gone and I felt I needed to stop dressing attractively and wait to die," Florence Anam, 28, an information officer at the Kenya Network of Women with AIDS, told IRIN/PlusNews.
Anam said when she first revealed she was HIV-positive, many men avoided her, believing she was out to infect them; she herself had no interest in sex for several months after she was diagnosed. However, she has since discovered she can continue having and enjoying sex, despite being HIV-positive.
"My take on this is that you can have your sexuality ... you don't have to lose it because you have HIV, you just have to be responsible," she said, adding that sex "has to be good or I'm not having it".
At a recent workshop by the Africa Regional Sexuality Resource Centre (ARSRC), at its Sexuality Institute in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, participants heard that there was a need to rethink sexuality in the context of disease, particularly chronic infections such as HIV.
"HIV as a condition is highly moralised; people face stigma because they are perceived by society to have been sexually immoral," said Richmond Tiemoko, director of ARSRC.
"Women are particularly affected by this type of stigma because they are expected to be the keepers of society's morality, so contracting HIV is seen as a great failure on their part." He said it was important that people living with HIV recognised and claimed their right to sexuality and sexual intercourse.