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 Friday 10 October 2008
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MALAWI: Jackson Edward: "I may live longer than the people who talk ill about me"

Photo: Joseph Kayira/IRIN
"It was such a challenge to come in the open and declare that I am HIV positive"
BALAKA, 1 October 2008 (PlusNews) - Jackson Edward, 37, is an HIV-positive father of three who lives in Balaka, a small town in southern Malawi. He dedicates his time to educating communities about living positively with HIV and distributing condoms in local bars. He talked to IRIN/PlusNews about how discovering his status changed his life.

"I came to Malawi in 1982 from Zimbabwe where my father was working. It was not easy for us to cope here because my parents didn't have enough money. I was lucky to be picked by some Catholic priests who paid for my school fees.

"Somehow I was spoiled because they gave me lots of money. I started boozing and womanising and in 1992 my health began to deteriorate; doctors told me I had tuberculosis. I battled with it for months, but I was cured.

"The doctor who was helping me told me I was also HIV positive, but at the time I did not believe him. Honestly, I understood very little about HIV and AIDS at the time.

"Looking at how healthy I was then, one could not believe I was HIV positive. But I started suffering from diseases such as malaria and persistent coughs time and again. The Catholic priests who were assisting me advised me to go for an HIV test.

"For the second time the doctors told me I was HIV positive. My CD4 count [which measures the strength of the immune system] was so low that I was immediately put on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. However, it took months for me to realise that I was on ARVs.

"My wife was shocked with the news. So, too, were some of my relatives, but doctors told me there is life after testing HIV positive. They told me I could live positively for years and I now believe it, because it's 16 years since I tested.

"My wife and our youngest child are [also] HIV positive. We go out together distributing condoms to communities [and] conduct awareness campaigns on the dangers of being promiscuous, and the importance of faithfulness and abstinence in one's life. I have a programme on a Catholic FM station, Radio Maria, on which I talk about AIDS and spirituality.

"It was such a challenge to come in the open and declare that I am HIV positive. Some people have even reached the extent of telling my children that I am positive and that I will die soon, but I have told [them] not to worry because I may live longer than the people who talk ill about me and my wife.

"I want more and more people to be aware about the dangers of AIDS but I can only reach out to a few because of lack of resources. My appeal to people is that they should know their status because that would help them to plan better for the future. I knew my status some years ago and that has helped me plan for my family in case something happens to me and my wife."


Theme(s): (IRIN) Care/Treatment - PlusNews, (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), (IRIN) PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews


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