World AIDS Day: Joseph's story
I was tested earlier this year when my wife and I were constantly falling ill. We were encouraged to get tested for HIV at the Merlin supported Nimule Hospital. We were both found to be positive. We lost one of our children soon after – we believe because of HIV.
Dealing with my positive result has been very difficult. I thought this diagnosis would mean that my life would be soon come to an end.
How would I be able to work to support my children and who would raise them once I was gone?
I was also worried that I had given all of my children HIV and the effects it would have on them. There is great stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in South Sudan. Would they be abandoned even by my relatives?
I was incredibly anxious. However, a Merlin counsellor was there to give me guidance and talked to me treatment. They told me about other HIV+ people who with ART medication are healthy. They live fulfilling lives and send their children to school. He gave me the courage to share my status with the rest of my family, so that they could give me emotional support and make sure I take my medication the right way.
Very soon after my diagnosis I enrolled in the Merlin supported Nimule Hospitals’ ART (antiretroviral therapy) Clinic. While in care, I received various kinds of support including, really importantly, psychological support.
This has really helped me to cope with my status and I have now started volunteering with Merlin as a Community Mobilizer, educating others in my community on the importance of taking medication regularly and not missing doses.
The clinic has also offered vital food support. With this support I don’t have to worry about having enough to feed my children, and their nutrition and general health has greatly improved.
The continued mental health support from the Merlin gives me hope.
I look forward to a brighter future where I hope to see my children grow up healthy and finish their schooling, and where I can build a new home for us in our village.
The message I would like to give everyone is that knowing your status is vital in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is really important to get tested.
Do not to be afraid of the stigma attached. Knowing your status means that you can live a healthy life.
It was war that originally brought Merlin to the region in 1997. And it is Merlin's commitment to the health of the South Sudanese people that keeps us there. We support HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in South Sudan that include not only traditional medical care but vital counselling, guidance and mental health support.
Merlin’s work makes a real contribution to the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS’s “Getting to Zero” objective, a vision towards achieving “Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”