We've been able to change lives
A fellow student who died of AIDS made Tedesse Alemu decide to help people suffering from this terrible epidemic. He’s been working in this sector now for 13 years, starting at the grassroots level and currently as executive director for the Network of Networks of People Living with HIV in Ethiopia (NEP+). His organisation is member of the Linking and Learning Project on HIV and Livelihoods. “We’ve been helped immensely by this project”.
“I still remember his name today”
The first time I ever saw someone with AIDS was when I was studying in Addis Ababa, seventeen years ago. I helped him back to his village. He was very frail and could barely swallow because his throat was infected. I still remember his name today, Shimelesse. A week later, he died. That encounter brought home to me the severity of the AIDS epidemic. I decided I wanted to help people like Shimelesse.
“Tragedy that stigma kills as much as the disease”
HIV in Ethiopia is terribly difficult to deal with. Admitting that you are HIV positive is like declaring that you sleep around. It's a tragedy that the stigma can kill as much as the disease -- that's why it's so important to tackle it.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by showing that people who are HIV positive can lead normal lives: they can be active, productive members of the community. NEP+ works on this every day, providing small grants and business training as well as social support to people living with HIV.
“Part of a community working towards the same goal”
We've been helped immensely in this by the Linking and Learning project on HIV and Livelihoods from STOP AIDS NOW!. Before, we were working in isolation. Now, we are part of a community working towards the same goal.
One of the great things to come out of Linking and Learning is a set guidelines for how best to carry out our type of work – from planning all the way through to evaluation. Without them, we would have missed so many individuals. The guidelines also help put us in a stronger position when it comes to the local government. We've been able to both achieve and demonstrate success, which is crucial to securing government funding.
“We’ve been able to change lives”
Personally I have learned from the Linking project that through partnership, even small resources can be useful and fruitful. HIV is not a problem that can be tackled by a single approach or even a single organisation. That is the beauty of collaboration: skills and experiences are shared, amplifying the power of our work.
We've been able to change lives. We've worked with people who went from being afraid to take their medication to being community leaders for HIV awareness. There are few people in Ethiopia who haven't been touched by this disease. My sister is living with HIV and my cousin died of AIDS. But through projects like the Linking & Learning project, we are starting to turn the tide and give people hope. My dream for the future is a healthy world free of stigma and discrimination, where individuals can enjoy all their rights.