"Since I started treatment, people see that I'm getting better, so they have started to visit me again. I think they pay more attention to my appearance than the disease itself. By taking on the appearance of a healthy person, I can find my place in society again."
"I was coughing a lot, so in may 1999 I went to the hospital to get treatment. It was then I was advised to do an HIV test. I stayed in hospital for two months to be treated for tuberculosis and I got the results of my test one week after my arrival.
"When I found out that I had AIDS, I was not really surprised, or panicked. But I did not associate my problem with AIDS because I knew nothing about the disease. My husband, he knew about it. He had heard about it in the newspaper. When I found out that it was a fatal disease and that there was no treatment, I prayed to God and accepted it. I immediately told my mother and my husband. My mother dropped everything to come and see me in the hospital.
"Since then, I've been going regularly go to my HIV consultations and I joined an association of people living with AIDS. Two months ago, during a consultation, I was told that I could receive a treatment which would help me regain my health and strength. They also explained that I would not be cured but 'stabilised'. I was very happy and came to the clinic three times before I took my first medication, because I don't know how to read and they had to give me long explanations.
"At that time, I remember I was weak and had difficulty moving about. I often had diarrhoea and headaches. I was sore all over and had a dry mouth... I also had difficulty doing things around the house: cleaning, washing, sweeping the front of the house and cooking.
"Life was very difficult because our income dropped significantly while I was ill. During three years, I did practically nothing. My husband's income is not constant as he is a seasonal worker. He works on farms in the north of the country picking tobacco. He's away for five to six months of the year and sends us money.
"Since I started the treatment, I've been feeling better and better, it's miraculous! I can fetch wood for the fire, I can even walk to the hospital on my own, which is two hours on foot. Taking my medication twice a day and going to the hospital once a week is not a constraint because I am fully aware that this treatment is saving my life.
"Another thing is that the people around me didn't know that I have AIDS. But the word got around and, at the beginning, I was rejected. My neighbours and friends came less and less often to visit me. Some even did not come for fear that they might be infected by simple contact.
"My mother told me not to worry and to let people talk. I was able to make new friends in the association I am a member of. We see each other often and are very supportive because we all have the same disease.
"Since I started treatment, people see that I'm getting better, so they have started to visit me again. I think they pay more attention to my appearance than the disease itself. By taking on the appearance of a healthy person, I can find my place in society again. I don't resent people's attitudes. To me, it's more important that I have my life back again.