In-depth: SUDAN: Conflict and conservatism

SUDAN: Fadia Awad: "Three years ago, this house was full of women...they don't come anymore"

Fadia Awad and her son, Hamid, still have their home, but they rarely get visitors these days.
Kassala, 7 January 2008 (PlusNews) - Fadia Awad lives with her son, Hamid, 8, in a small settlement outside Kassala in eastern Sudan. She belongs to the Rashaida tribe, a traditionally nomadic people who emigrated from the Arabian Peninsula in the nineteenth century. She and her son have both been shunned by their community because they are HIV-positive.

"I got the virus from my husband. He got sick after he came home from Saudi Arabia, where he was in the military. He went for an HIV test and the doctor said he was negative, but I was still worried about him so I asked one of his relatives to bring a counsellor to our home so he could test again. This time he tested positive and me and my son also tested and found we were positive.

"I didn't have any idea about HIV at that time. I sold all of my gold and we borrowed money from my husband's brother so we could buy a herbal treatment from Khartoum for 1,200 Sudan Pounds (US$587), but it didn't help and he died at home shortly after that.

"I started taking ARVs [antiretroviral drugs] two years ago. My son started treatment at the same time, but he doesn't play with the other boys here - they refuse him.

"He doesn't go to school either - it's far away from here, but everyone knows about his father and his story, and I'm afraid they'll abuse him. He tried going to the religious school, but the other boys refused to share a classroom with him so he dropped out.

"Ockenden [an international non-governmental organisation that used to have an HIV programme in eastern Sudan] gave me three goats for income generation, but no one would buy the milk, so I sold them. I depend on the food I get from the clinic, but it's not enough.

"My husband's relatives live nearby, but I have no relationship with them anymore. In our tribe everyone knows your business, so we've been completely isolated.

"Three years ago this house was full of women cooking, talking and laughing, but since I got sick they don't come anymore. I don't care, I won't leave; this is my home. God supports me and I am patient, so maybe things will get better.

"I don't know anyone else here who's affected, but nobody goes for testing, so they don't know their status.

"I go to meetings [of the local association of people living with HIV] when Alsawi [the director] calls. He gives us information about how to look after ourselves. We're close to each other and we talk. Some of them [other members] haven't told their families and some, their families stigmatise them."

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