Person Living With AIDS
(Name withheld by request)
I first knew I had HIV disease because of intense diarrhea, a high fever.
HOW IS THE FIGHT GOING IN SENEGAL?
The most important thing is to raise awareness in the public, something that is not 100 percent yet. Some people dont want to know yet. You have to make them believe it is something that is a danger.
I am prepared to get involved publicly, to help save those who have not fallen ill.
My family does not know about this up till now. Only my wife knows. Once the family knows you have HIV/AIDSæ things are never the same, and they dont want to have anything to do with you anymore.
I was tested and my results were positive&I found out in 1996.
When I found out, I thought: this is really bad, but& I knew I was going to have to keep up my spirits&and keep up my hopes until the last moment.
HOW DO YOU FEEL? DO THE DRUGS HELP?
I feel okay compared to a little while ago, but I am not 100 percent. & this time last year I thought I was not going to make it.
I have been taking anti-retroviral for five months. They are expensive compared to our income here. We wait to see if the prices will fall.
The drugs come from America. We get them free for 18 months, as part of a medical test, after that we have to pay for them ourselves at the price Senegal has negotiated.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO PEOPLE?
If we had known about it for a long time, it would have been easy to avoid AIDS. Those who have had the good fortune not to be infected by this virus, can avoid it&by protecting themselves in matters of sex, by not using the same syringes, avoiding barbers that shave many people with the same razor&avoid these things and you have a thousand chances to avoid this virus.
YOU DIDNT MENTION FAITHFULNESS?
Faithfulness&that is always there, part of life, there were always diseases you could get when you werent faithful. Its been there forever.
There are other things common in Africa, like polygamy. And there are men who arent polygamous, they are monogamous, but they have mistresses and all that is unfaithfulness, too.
Abstinence is like faithfulness. I would put them together. When you are abstinent you know what to do and & you are obligated to abstain & I put them together, faithfulness and abstinence.
WHICH BOAT ARE YOU ON?
I abstain 100 percent today, together with my wife.
I dont think the young understood this but they are beginning to.
WHAT DOES THE STIGMA DO TO YOU?
Society should be able to accept us. Take the disease like any disease, even if AIDS is a disease that kills. People have to understand that no one wants to have a bad illness like this, &and that one way to understand it is to see your neighbor sick. The public, whoever we are, should accept us. Until the day we are lost, we have our part in the society.
At the community center, we have discussion groups every 15 days, between a social worker and us who are sick with HIV. We invite groups like SIDA Service and other NGOs too.
These discussion groups comfort us a lot. Most of us got HIV without knowing the how bad the consequences were. These discussion groups enable us to understand the consequences.
These groups have showed many of us the way to this AIDS Service where we are now, which is our main support today in Senegal.
WHAT IS SENEGAL DOING TO FIGHT AGAINST AIDS?
Senegal has invested itself in almost all the ways of fighting AIDS. And in saving the life of those who are infected with HIV. First of all, if you look at the commitment of the government toward anti-retroviral, you will find that Senegal is the first country in West Africa where there is access to anti-retroviral.
We have several NGOs that take part, including SIDA Service. Most patients today are assisted by AIDS Service in various ways: taking care of them medically, helping with the families, but also financially.
The best preventive measure in Senegal is to sensitize people about AIDS. Teach people to take precautions, to abstain, and above all to be faithful.
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