Michael Ugochukwu runs a match making business in Nigeria’s capital Abuja where he brings people living with HIV together.
He said he had played a part in the marriage of around 100 couples in recent years.
The 45-year-old started his service in 2012 with the desire to help those he describes as Nigeria’s “rejects” after becoming disillusioned with widespread stigmas toward people with HIV.
I want to reach out to those who could not afford, those who don’t even, those who are so ignorant they don’t know who to rely on.
“I want to reach out to those who could not afford, those who don’t even, those who are so ignorant they don’t know who to rely to. That’s my target. I go to villages, I talk to these people, some people get the virus in town, they go to village to go and die waiting for death to come,” he said.
Ugochukwu said he had some 7,000 clients on his list, ranging in age from 19 to 72, six out of seven of them are women.
He charges a fee of 2,000 naira ($6) for people who work, but his service is free for the unemployed.
“The major challenge is about money, and you can see some of my systems are down, I need to be educated. I did not go to any formal school about this,” he added.
An Abuja resident, Funmi Kuju said the matchmaking platform is helpful because it enables people living in different cities to meet.
“It is a good thing because there are some people who are kind of like shy to meet up with people to tell them that okay I have an HIV and I needed a good partner but under the matchmaking everybody knows what their wants and their needs is,” she said.
Paul an HIV patient said discrimination and stigma in the country prevents many people from disclosing their status, adding that more awareness and knowledge about the disease needs to be made available.
“For me the guy is trying, and he is trying to make sure that people living with HIV AIDS try to live a normal life so he is trying to make the other person to match up so that they can have kids and other things like every other human being but as for me I don’t need the kind of matchmaking I just need somebody that will care for me,” he said.
The assistant director, for care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS, at the Federal Ministry of Health, Ombugado Obadiah said the fact that one is Positive does not prevent him or her from getting married to someone who is HIV negative.
Nigerian government on March signed into law a new version of the HIV/AIDS Anti-discriminative Act, designed to make it easier for the public to understand the disease.
By 2020, UNAIDS wants 90 percent of people with HIV to know their status, and 90 percent of diagnosed people to be on treatment.