September 12, 2011
Godian. (Photo: EGPAF)
My name is Godian. I was born in Tanzania’s Kagera district in 1954. I am married with four children and I work as a technician for the Tanzanian government in Bariadi.
I have been living with HIV for more than seven years.
I first found out about my HIV status in 2004, a time when very little was known about the virus in the rural community where I lived. After initially falling ill, I visited my local hospital for help but they could not provide a diagnosis. Unable to determine the illness that was causing my symptoms, I left the hospital and travelled nearly 500 miles to a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city.
It was there that I was tested for HIV. When I was told I had HIV, I thought I was going to die. It was very difficult for me.
The doctors urged me to stay calm. They told me I could receive treatment that would help to reduce the effects of the virus in my body, restore my health, and enable me to live a long life.
I began taking the medicines the doctors prescribed for me. After three months on treatment, I went back to Dar es Salaam for a follow-up exam. My doctors were very impressed with my progress; I had gained weight and was feeling healthy.
Soon after returning to my village, my wife fell ill, and before we could determine the cause, she died in August 2004. I suspect that she died of a HIV-related illness.
I continued to take my medicine, even though treatment was expensive for me. In addition to paying for the drugs, I had to pay to travel from my home to Dar es Salaam for my check-ups.
When the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation began an HIV treatment program in my hometown in 2005, I found hope. I enrolled to participate in the program, and began receiving drugs free of charge. I no longer had to think about raising the fare to travel to Dar es Salaam, but could concentrate on my health.
Being open about my HIV-positive status has helped me a great deal. Since I began taking treatment through the Foundation, I have worked with other HIV-positive men, encouraging them to accept and be vocal about their HIV status. I have seen too many men die because of denial and stigma.
In December 2005, I joined other HIV-positive men in Bariadi to form the first men’s HIV counseling group in the community. The group educates people living with HIV about disclosure, healthy lifestyles, and adherence to treatment. We tell them it is possible to be HIV-positive and live a healthy life, and that an HIV-positive man can marry and have HIV-negative children if he continues his treatment and a healthy lifestyle.
Our group has become very successful. We have expanded, and today, there are many groups like ours in Bariadi that actively help men to come to terms with their HIV status and support their families.
I have continued to work as a civil servant, and I remain an active HIV counselor, supporting my group’s mission to reach people living with HIV with the message of hope. Together, we are fighting stigma and changing lives. Until the stigma is gone, and everyone knows that treatment for HIV exists, we will not stop.
Godian volunteers as a facilitator for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in Bariadi District. Apart from reaching out and educating men about the importance of knowing their status and supporting their families, Godian speaks to give hope to men who often refuse HIV testing and treatment.