Home HEALTH HIV/AIDS stigma forces people to hide away in Kismayo

HIV/AIDS stigma forces people to hide away in Kismayo

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Keydka sawirrada Ergo

(ERGO) – Ali Daud, 46, has been evicted three times from rented houses in Kismayo, southern Somalia, when his landlords found out about his HIV status.

He told Radio Ergo he once found his belongings dumped in the road outside his house without any warning that he was being evicted.

When he came out publicly last year in an interview with the local media about living with HIV/AIDS, Ali’s relatives abroad cut off the $150 remittances they had been sending him. His close relatives have disowned him, claiming that he has tarnished the family reputation.

“I see people talking ill and pointing fingers at me, that is a big problem for me,” said Ali, who has been living with HIV for seven years.

He lives now in a house rented from a relative with his wife, who is also HIV positive. They got married a year ago.

Despite being treated as a social outcast, Ali has taken up the cause of raising awareness among the community and reaching out to help others living with the virus.

He is director of an organization supporting people living with HIV/AIDS in Kismayo and visiting the HIV/AIDS ward at Kismayo hospital.

Ali said that most people living with HIV conceal their status to avoid stigma. Often they do not visit hospital even to access the free anti-retroviral drugs, or ARVs, available.

Kismayo hospital opened an HIV unit two years ago. Dr Ibrahim Osman Dhi’is, head of the HIV unit, said he has diagnosed 18 people in the past two months with HIV/AIDS, who all refused to accept medication.

The hospital has 43 registered HIV/AIDS patients who have been attending the ward for treatment. Six of them were repatriated from Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, and returned with their medication records to resume treatment.

Shukri Haji Abdalla (not her real name), 35, understood that she was HIV positive around two years ago. She had earlier been diagnosed with TB and had been taking medication unsuccessfully for fourth months.  She was offered an HIV test at the hospital.

“When I was told ‘you have that disease’ I was traumatized. I always thought this disease was an instant killer, I didn’t think you could live with it for long,” Shukri said.

Before Kismayo hospital opened its specialist unit, there were no ARVs available. A doctor paid for her to travel to Mogadishu, where she sought treatment for six months.

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