Wednesday, January 17, 2007

SUCCESS STORY: Providing hope and support for HIV-affected women

Battling the Stigma of HIV/AIDS: Providing hope and support for HIV-affected women

Several years ago, a young mother in Ethiopia named Tadeleu contracted HIV from her husband, who later passed away from the disease. Her two children, who are HIV negative, live with her mother. She tells of the stigma she faces, both emotionally and socially. “When I found out I had the disease,” she said, “all I could think about was how much I hated myself, and I kept denying that I had the disease. I do not want to become intimate with people, because I fear they will find out my status.”

When Tadeleu discovered she had HIV, she started attending support meetings at the Hope Center, a church-based organization established with help from USAID funding. She found a sense of community and a program that would change her life. The Center provided skills, training, and start-up capital for her to begin a small sewing business.

Now, she is too busy to worry about disapproval from her neighbors. Her buyers are often from markets several towns away, because she does not want to deal with local people. Despite the stigma of living with HIV in Ethiopia, she finds relief in the Hope Center. “I am happy that the church has provided support,” she says. “They keep our secrets.”

Vibrant fabrics grace the wall behind Tadeleu where she spends each day hard at work from sunrise to sunset at her manually powered sewing machine. Orders come in regularly, giving Tadeleu confidence in her work and a sense of security. Amidst her tears, a smile breaks out, and she says, “This program has given me life.” With funding for a small business, Tadeleu keeps busy with orders on her self-powered sewing machine.

“This program has given me life,” said Tadeleu, an HIV-positive mother who now runs her own small business.

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