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GAMBIAN AIDS PATIENTS - 2001-11-13


In The Gambia, people living with HIV are complaining about the lack of anti Aids drugs. They say they have little hope for longer life. Gambian Aids activists are commending the patients for voicing their concerns. The complaint was made by members of an association called People Living With Hiv in The Gambia, better known as the Santayala group. Forty year old Lamin Bah is a teacher infected with HIV. He says,” The international community and the Gambian government should come to help people living with the virus, to be able to provide them with modern anti retrovirals that would help us to live longer. To give us hope for the future.”

Mr. Bah was diagnosed HIV positive in 1998. He says people living with the virus should be treated with love and care. He says, “Due to the nature of the infection, one is not all the time strong enough. But a lot of us are out of employment and therefore we need support… that means we should be sustainable to be able to get an income generation. “ According to Mr. Bah, those who are infected with HIV, but are fit to work, should be allowed to go back to work. But Lamin Bah says the stigma attached to the disease is a major problem. “Well once people know about it they discriminate you, he says, or they try to segregate you. But as time goes on when you are able to cope with the activities and programs within the area, then people begin to accept you. But it is not easy now to disclose one's status to the public.”

Another patient, Sulayman Darboe, says he became infected with HIV last year. “I am still living positively. I don't have a problem. I do have medication from the medical research council, MRC, to protect me from other problems that attack my body,” he says. “Since then I don't have much problem. So, the problem is only about the anti retroviral drug. That we are crying here.” Mr. Darboe, who is married with two wives with eight children, says people infected with the virus could be a vital force in the global campaign to fight AIDS. He says, “People living with HIV, positive living is the most important thing, hence you know your status. Maybe you will be able to protect other people through sensitization. You can talk to other people to avoid spreading the virus.” Mr. Darboe was asked whether he thinks he will live a long life despite being infected with HIV. He replied, “That is up to God. I cannot say that. People are dying who don't have HIV.”

Rose Clair Charles is a UN volunteer working with People Living with HIV in The Gambia. She says anti-aids drugs would save lives. “Yes, as I said, if you are familiar with the medical aspect it helps to reduce the HIV in the body. And I think if the drug is there, of course, people will live longer.”

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