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 Friday 07 March 2008
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Devotha Mukagasana, "I made a decision to abstain in order not to infect others"
March 2008 (PlusNews)

Photo: Cida Alternag
Despite past experiences, life can change
KIGALI, Devotha Mukagasana, a 26-year-old former commercial sex worker and mother of one, is now a member of Tubusezerere (Kinyarwanda for "goodbye to poverty and prostitution"). The group comprises women who have quit the sex trade in favour of other income-generating activities in Rwanda's central district of Muhanga:

"Like many other people who used to struggle to survive in the streets of Muhanga town, we decided to change our behaviour since the sex trade is not a sustainable activity or a way to earn a decent living.

"I learned my HIV status in 2005 when members of our association decided to go for voluntary HIV testing. Previously I did not know that I was infected. I decided to go for the test voluntarily because of certain diseases that I started to suffer from, particularly shingles, skin diseases, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

"I started to manifest all these symptoms in 2004. My family noticed that my health was failing, but did not take care of me. I was completely abandoned.

"The association Tubusezerere gave vocational training and counselled me on HIV/AIDS. I did not only gain professional knowledge to create income-generating projects, but I also got the courage to live with HIV without fear. It helped me change my behaviour and bolstered my Christian faith. I no longer take drugs or alcohol.

"The group, which was initially funded by the World Bank, has changed my life. I noticed that despite past experiences, life can change. I now make a living as a dress maker.

"Before starting antiretroviral treatment in February 2006, I was weak. I had lost weight. I could do nothing. But after the ARV treatment, and through the goodwill and advice of doctors, I have no problems now.

"After two months on medication, I had gained 5kg. I had regained my appetite and strength. After four months of treatment the kilos kept piling on.

"I have the strength to work. The cough is gone. The spots on my skin are going. I am now able to do my job as a seamstress and do it well.

"Until I tested positive for HIV, I heard people talk about the pandemic, but I did not know that it was actually AIDS. The test gave me a lot of courage to take care of my health.

"Even though I was not sure that I had AIDS, I suspected it. I made a conscious decision to abstain in order not to infect others."



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

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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.