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Posts from the ‘Digital Stories’ Category

6
Jul

Paul’s story

By Cynara Vetch

Paul Kasououona is an HIV activist working in Zambia, the only straight man in the country who speaks out on gay and lesbian issues.

by Tammy Tschentscher

“I will never forget the day I discovered I was HIV positive. It was in 2000 and back then Zambia didn’t have any ARVs, The woman who tested me said that I was sick and that I could never recover, she told me to go home and prepare myself for death.”

“When I went back to my community everyone judged me. They said that I had been promiscuous, that I brought this illness on myself and that I should not accept sympathy. That was when I decided to leave Zambia.”

Paul had a plan “There was a civil war going on in Angola at the time, anyone who could do business there earnt much more money because it was so dangerous. I decided to go there to trade Zambian goods. My plan was simple, I was going to earn enough money to pay for my funeral, I wasn’t going to have any of my family spending their money and begrudging it because I was HIV positive.”

“When I reached Angola I set up my stall in the area allocated for foreigners but I wasn’t there long. One night at a bar a white man heard me speaking English on the phone, this was unusual in Angola and he wanted to hire me straight away.  This turned out to be very lucky, one day he came to me because he had heard that they were now giving out ARVs in Zambia.”

Paul planned to return to Angola once he had his medication but it did not work out that way “When I reached Lusaka I began to see what was happening in my country. There were ARVs in Lusaka but they didn’t reach any further, many people were dying in the countryside. I couldn’t return until everyone had access to the drug.”

Paul has been working as an HIV activist for over 10 years now. He’s an outspoken critic of the government and controversially he works amongst Zambia’s underground homosexual and lesbian community. Homosexuality is illegal in the country and he has faced discrimination and shrinking job opportunities because of his advocacy for gay rights. He remains however undeterred

“If AIDS didn’t kill me, what can anyone else do” he asks “nothing scares me now.”

2
Jul

Isabel Masangwingwi

By Cynara Vetch

Isabel Masangwingwi is 35 and sells seeds in a shop in Seke, she isn’t married but has a steady boyfriend “I love him very much” she told me “but I don’t trust him, no man’s perfect. Who can you trust but God?”.

Isabel recently went for an STI test “I began to think he was moving around and seeing other girls so I went to the health centre. I had an STI and I was very scared I thought, what will come next?” She now wears condoms and had to persuade her man to use them “He said that maybe now he’d find someone else if that’s what I wanted. I said that was fine I’m not willing to risk myself.”

Isabel has seen first hand the devastation that HIV can cause. “I’m so scared everywhere here I see people dying I ask myself is it AIDS or are they starving? Sometimes when they hear their husband or wife is infected, they get confused and scared and they drink poison, that is so wrong and unnatural.”

The problem is that Isabel’s allergic to the condoms she has found in Zimbabwe. She approached the Africa Goal team to ask if we had any alternatives, and we offered her some natural rubber condoms. However we fear that it is the latex, which is present in all but the most expensive condoms, that she reacts to.

Elizabeth is not willing to risk it and says “If these don’t work I will give it up. These things are secondary. What’s important is to stay well. I want to see my daughter graduate as a nurse and prosper.”

21
Jun

Ally Babu: An inspirational young guy

By Cynara Vetch

At the screening in Arusha we met an inspirational young guy called Ally Babu. He is unemployed and desperately searching for a job to support his family but in any spare time he has he works as a volunteer for Africa Wings and Family Health International. HIV is a key issue for Ally.

“I’m working with FHI because it is a way to convey my feelings and opinions to people. People are dying, we’re losing important people. Every family has been touched by this disease, in my family I lost my uncle, he was an engineer, he really helped me. Due to that I decided to fight this disease and start a youth club” he told me.

Ally won scholarships to a prestigious school in Tanzania and was destined to study International Relations at University. Unfortunately his policeman father was forced to retire recently and can no longer afford to send him. Ally is putting his education on hold for the moment and looking at how to use his schooling to help his community, he believes change starts with the young.

“Before you change others you have to change yourself, I’m always telling my local leaders to change before asking others to change, that have to do something before asking people to do something…It is the same for me, before I could tell others around me to change I had to change my behaviour and not risk HIV.”

Ally’s present project is to set up a health club for young people unable to go to school in Arusha.

“Students in school have teachers who can help set up health clubs but youth in the community who are not at school are not getting that opportunity. I was at school, now I’m going to found a health club so that others can benefit like I did, I’m trying to convince others like me so we can do it together. I dreaming about this. People think this work can only be done with big NGOs that have lots of money. We need to change this idea, we need to start from the community.”

15
Jun

Digital Stories: Moses Olich in Baringo

By Matthew Herren, Photos by Tammy Tschentscher

Our match showings are about more than just football. They are, in fact, primarily, about HIV and AIDS, with football being the perfect catalyst for bringing people together. At our events, we lead off with discussions about HIV and AIDS, ways to prevent it, and ways to treat it.

Moses Olich is a teacher at a local school near where we showed the Serbia-Ghana game.

During the game, he approached one of the Africa Goal team members, interested in learning more about HIV and AIDS, and in particular, he wanted to get himself and his two wives tested. He was particularly worried because his ex-wife is living with HIV. (She also attended our match-showing, and told us how she is receiving treatment, and as a result, is able to live healthily).

His first question was one of prevention. He had heard that condoms were “bad,” and actually increased the likelihood of contracting HIV. We assured him that this was not the case, and that the use of condoms is an important component in preventing onward infection. He then told us about how he had been meaning to get himself and his wives tested for some time, but that the nearest clinic is far away and he has not been able to.

In collaboration with our local partners, a facility for testing had been set up at our match event. Free testing and counseling services were made available to anyone interested, and the results can be ready in as little as fifteen minutes. Moses and his two wives quickly joined the line. In total, 21 tests were carried out during the game. For an area where HIV and AIDS are still a taboo topic, its a very encouraging start.

During halftime, Moses and his wives found us again. From their big smiles, it didn’t come as a surprise to us that they all tested negative.