A Beacon of HOPE in Ethiopia
40-year-old Aman has emerged as a beacon of hope for his small Ethiopian community. Among his family, his coworkers, his classmates and his community, his positivity shines brightly in the shadow of the positive HIV diagnosis he received just a year ago.
As often happens with HIV-positive diagnoses, Aman first found out he had TB, but was unaware that this was a co-infection with HIV. It was a volunteer Community Resource Person (CRP) with Project HOPE-led and USAID-funded Ethiopia Community HIV Care and Treatment (CHCT) program who suggested that Aman also be tested for HIV. The CRP arranged for a Community Engagement Facilitator (CEF) to come to Aman’s home and test him.
“When I got TB, I was in bed for five months – seriously sick,” says Aman. “When the CEF came to my house and checked my blood and saw that I also had the HIV virus, I started taking the medicine immediately. Little by little, I started feeling better. I began to walk again and then felt strong enough to return to work.”
His positive diagnosis did not come as a complete shock. His wife had previously found out that she was HIV-positive during a prenatal checkup.
“I encourage others to get tested before they get married. I am completely open about my HIV status. Everyone knows my status and I try to teach others how to take care of themselves.”
“When my wife first found out about her diagnosis, she came home mad and depressed but didn’t tell me why right away,” says Aman.
Statistics show that only 31.8 percent of currently married women and 33.9 percent of currently married men in Ethiopia who have ever tested positive and received their results disclosed their status to their partner.
“When I pressed her for details, she confessed,” continues Aman. “To ease her pain, I took the responsibility and told her that maybe she had gotten the virus from me since I had been caring for my sick sister.”
The couple’s first priority was for their children. “We were more worried about our children than we were about ourselves and got them tested immediately,” says Aman.
After they got the encouraging news that their children were HIV-negative, they began to focus on how to help themselves, and Project HOPE was there every step of the way with medical and psychosocial counseling.
By the time Aman received his own positive diagnosis, he was prepared. “I didn’t panic when I first found out,” he says. “Because of the things I had already learned, I realized that I can live with the virus, and I was able to accept the diagnosis.”
He has returned to his job as a security guard at a local university, takes classes at night, and is involved in a university-sponsored organization to provide HIV awareness and support.
“I have disclosed my HIV status to others in my class at night school and at the university,” he says. “I encourage others to get tested before they get married. I am completely open about my HIV status. Everyone knows my status and I try to teach others how to take care of themselves.”
Full of energy and optimism, Aman is not only taking care of himself and his family, he has also become a volunteer in his own community. Inspired by the CRP who helped him, he has become a Community Resource Person as well.
“If Project HOPE hadn’t found me, I wouldn’t be alive today. They saved my life. They saved me. And they have made me an example for my community. I really appreciate what they did for me. And I just want to say ‘Thank you!’”