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SOMALIA: Mahamud Warsame, "I am doing this so no one has to go through what my wife and I went through"

Photo: Mahamed Kooshin/IRIN
"People I have known for a long time would not even shake hands with me"
NAIROBI, 14 December 2009 (PlusNews) - In a conservative Muslim society such as Somalia, it is extremely rare for a person living with HIV to speak out. But Mahamud Warsame, 53, from Galkayo in Mudug region of central Somalia, became an activist after his wife died from an HIV-related illness. He spoke to IRIN on 14 December:

"I found out about my own status in May 2007 when I went to see a doctor who sent me to be tested. The results came back and the doctor informed me that I was HIV-positive. I honestly thought at the time that it was the end of the world for me. My wife also tested positive and she was devastated. She looked like the light went out of her.

"Friends and family disappeared as soon as they found out about our status. We had no support. Even though we were put on antiretroviral drugs, it did not help my wife because I think she just gave up. I looked after her for 8 months but she died in March 2009.

“The biggest problem we faced during this time was a lack of understanding and support from those closest to us.

“People would not rent their premises to us. People I have known for a long time would not even shake hands with me. I think that is what killed my wife, the isolation we suffered.

“After I buried my wife I decided to come out openly and tell people about my status and the fact that I was on medication and doing fine. I want to make sure no one has to go through what my wife and went through.

“We need to fight stigma and discrimination.

“I have already helped some men to go on treatment and not hide their status.

“Some people believe that because we are Muslims, we cannot contract HIV/AIDS. I tell them that it does not discriminate on the basis of religion, ethnicity or culture. Anyone and everyone can contract the virus.

“In this country we need to fight to dispel this false sense of security that Muslims don’t contract it and tell people we are all in this together.

“I am now on medication and those who don’t know me cannot even tell I am HIV positive. I am working and trying to raise my two children who lost their mother. I think living with HIV has made me a better person.”


Theme(s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, Education, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews, Prevention - PlusNews, Stigma/Human Rights/Law - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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