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 Wednesday 31 October 2007
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Alem Tilahun: "I was lured by clothes and cars and now I am HIV-positive"
October 2007 (PlusNews)

Photo: IRIN
The dream lifestyle Alem's sugar daddy offered was not all it seemed
ADDIS ABABA, *Alem Tilahun is a high school drop out living in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. She told IRIN/PlusNews how, lured by the desire for a better lifestyle, she became involved with a much older man.

"There was a girl who used to live next door and while I spent my days sitting by our gate, she used to dress well and was picked up by different beautiful cars. I was always jealous of her and wanted to be like her.

"One day I approached her when she was dropped off and talked to her. I told her I wanted to get a job and be like her; she told me to come back the next day. I was so excited and could not sleep the whole night.

"The next day she took me to her house and gave me one of her beautiful dresses. She made up my face until I couldn't recognise myself. After a while a beautiful car came and picked us up - there were two men in the car and she introduced me to them.

"Starting from that day I became a friend to one of the men. I told him that I was looking for a job; he promised me that he would help me and from then on he started giving me money and buying new clothes for me. I lied to my mother that I had found a job. I started supporting her and the whole family. Everyone was so proud of me.

"My life changed; he was treating me very nicely and although he was very old for me, I liked him. I even slept with him. He used to tell me that he would marry me. He often travelled out of Ethiopia for work purposes and even used to bring me stuff from wherever he went.

"Then at one point he disappeared for a long time; I assumed he had gone abroad again. When he didn't show up for a long time, I kept asking my neighbour where he was but she used to soothe me, saying that he is fine, he has travelled. But after three months I got worried and started nagging her about his whereabouts.

"Finally, she told me that he was sick and in hospital. I was very shocked and went to visit him. I couldn't even recognise him, he had lost so much weight. He told me his days were few and begged my forgiveness for what he had done to me. I was confused; I didn't know what he was talking about because all he had ever done for me was improve my life.

"That night I went to my neighbour and told her what happened. She started crying in the middle of my story and also begged my forgiveness. She told me that my man was married and his wife died a year ago of HIV. She said she did not know about it when she introduced us.

"I did not know what to do; I did not leave home for a few days. Eventually I decided to go and ask him why he had done this to me, but when I got to the hospital I was told he had died the previous day.

"A few days later, my neighbour and I decided to get tested - both of us were found HIV-positive. I forgive her because she was fooled like me. Now, nobody knows our status except the two of us and a local NGO that helped us to get on ART (antiretroviral treatment). 

"We are doing domestic work and supporting our families. We don't know what will happen to us. We were deceived by artificial things like cars and clothes."


* Not her real name


[The above testimony is provided by IRIN, a humanitarian news service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

IRIN welcomes editorial and photographic submissions for inclusion on this page, reserving the right to select and edit as appropriate.
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.