Living in West Africa with HIV/AIDS can turn into a lonely battle, especially in remote areas, where stigmatization remains prevalent. One man in Nzerekore, Guinea, shared his struggles with VOA's Nico Colombant.
A tall, thin man in his 40s, patiently awaits his monthly ration of food, donated by the World Food Program (WFP) and other donors, through a local non-governmental organization.
He says, in most places when people know you are HIV positive, they do not want to help you. They do not even want to smell you. He says here, you get free food.
He gets anti-retroviral medicine every two months in another center, through the international aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
He says he is feeling much better, since joining the program.
The man accepts to talk about his struggles, but says he wants to do so anonymously.
He found out he was HIV positive in 2006. His wife died of AIDS four years ago. He has four children, all of them in school.
Before he got sick, he was a teacher in a private school.
But he says he quit teaching, when he was too weak.
He says before he started taking medicines, he weighed 42 kilos, but now he weighs 57 kilos and feels much better.
He says he would like to see non-governmental organizations organize revenue-generating projects for patients, like raising cattle or opening small shops.
He says it is hard to get employed if people find out you are HIV-positive.
He says people are afraid to touch you. He says families, friends and relatives abandon you. He says they think you have HIV, because you have sinned.
He says patients should be serious about taking their medicine and not be ashamed to seek outside help. He says HIV is like any other disease.
The HIV-positive man says the government holds lots of conferences about AIDS, but he only sees non-governmental organizations reaching out.
When donors help, he recommends they not forget the local volunteers. He says many of them are barely paid and even lose money, because their salary is lower than their transportation costs.
West Africa has lower HIV/AIDS rates than other parts of Africa. However, there is also generally less awareness and openness about the disease, especially in former French colonies like Guinea. Nzerekore, where the man lives, is one of the worst affected areas in the region, having been at the crossroads of displacements from conflicts in nearby Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.