People living positively

October 20, 2006

Yesterday we had a training session on HIV/AIDS in Zambia. Three HIV Positive people spoke to us about their experiences advocating for their rights.


The first lady, Catherine, was diagnosed at the age of 20 in 1991. She had only slept with her boyfriend, and at that stage thought that HIV was confined to prostitutes. When she told her family and friends they reacted badly and she became isolated. Then after years of appearing on television to make everyone aware of the virus, people questioned whether she had made it up to get sympathy. But Catherine was not daunted and has continued to take action on HIV. Now people in the compound where she lives come and ask for advice.


Another man, who had been a Premier League footballer, was diagnosed with HIV 10 years ago. He has since married an HIV Positive women and had two HIV negative children aged 6 and 3. He was really keen to emphasize that HIV Positive people should have the same rights as everyone else.


It was inspiring to see these people who were not prepared to let HIV affect their lives. People can live with HIV for many years, but only if they are aware of their condition and how to manage it. Diet is important, but so is access to medicine. At the moment the big brand anti-retroviral drugs are way beyond the reach of most Zambians and big pharmaceuticals have pressurized governments into banning cheaper generics.


But with people like I met yesterday on the case I think there are lots of reasons to be positive.

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