Hope for HIV infetced
Shukri* has been living with HIV for five years. Prior to infection, she never considered HIV/Aids seriously. So, when it happened, Shukri did not know how to handle it. First, she perceived those infected as being so immoral – now she was in the category. Secondly, her family isolated her.
The stigma and discrimination surrounding AIDS made it so difficult for her to live with the virus. She was lonely, anxious and she started to slowly move into depression. Soon Shukri’s immune systems became weak. She was sudden, she would not live long. But all changed when she was introduced to Talowadag - a coalition of NGOs that gives care and support to people affected by HIV and AIDS in Somaliland.
“I am so grateful to the social workers here. They usually advise us on how to live positively with the virus. We are also given nutritious food and medication. I have no serious health problems since I joined Talowadag. This is my fourth year. I have generally accepted my situation”, explains Shukri.
Talowadag was established in 2006, supporting just one woman infected by HIV. Currently, it is supporting 300, many of them women. The organization has helped to demystify HIV and Aids. Most people now can talk about their HIV status openly. There is also greater acceptance of HIV infected by their family members. For those infected, Talowadag has helped to establish support groups.
“We chose to focus on emotional support for people who have HIV. The best way was to organize them into activist groups or support groups where they can share their experiences and feelings with other people in similar situations. This helps to improve their health status”, says Gulleid Osman, Executive Director of Talowadag.
Religious leaders can play an important role in HIV/AIDS prevention in view of their influence and acceptance within their communities. It is thus critical to meaningfully involve them in prevention and care and support endeavors. This strategy has been adopted by Talowadag with support from The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNAIDS.
“We train religious training religious leaders to teach local communities about behaviour change and to send out right messages about HIV and Aids in a compassionate, loving and caring manner. This is important because so many myths and misconceptions about HIV and Aids exist among the Somali community”, says Osman.