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AIDS Stories

The horrifying facts and figures of HIV/AIDS don't begin to reflect the true toll on the fabric of society. Below are some stories of those living, and dying, from the disease. They come from all walks of life.

Watch producer Jamila Paksima's encounter with Margaret, a woman suffering from AIDS, below, and read a poem about the AIDS plague in Africa.


Jamila Paksima: Could you tell me how you became HIV positive?

Margaret: I don't know. I'm so sick. At home, we had a husband. And this husband just died. And nobody knows why he died.

Paksima: Margaret, what would you say, what do people need to know about HIV, to help stop this?

Margaret: I would tell them to go down there and get tested.

My heart felt bad when I went down there. My heart calmed down and the church people came. They even come here in the evening and pray for me. My spirit has definitely come back.

Paksima: Thank you so much. You are a very brave lady.

Margaret: Now I can't be afraid.

On Saturday, April 13, 2002, a month after we had left Africa, Margaret lost her battle with AIDS.

Read the complete interview with Margaret.

  • NIGERIA: John and his family: Excerpts from interviews conducted before and during the Carter/Gates trip through Africa.

    John, Vice-coordinator, Regional Network of People Living w. HIV/AIDS: So when the result was positive for my wife and negative for me, we went to the church, so they said that they're not going to wed us because of my wife being HIV+. But then I have lived with her for four months so I told them I may be in my window period, that there's no law that forbids people from getting married because they're HIV+. So we had a terrible experience with the church. At last we were permitted to wed.

    Reporter: If you knew that your wife was positive, didn't you want to protect yourself so that you didn't become infected?

    John: In HIV you have a window period, and I believe I may be in my window period. And I'm a Catholic and I don't believe in condom.

    --That was 1995. John, too, has since tested positive for HIV. He still does not use condoms.

    John: In 1998 we had a baby, she used AZT and she had a Caesarian operation and our baby is 3 years and about 5 months now and she's HIV negative.

    We're not taking medicine ourselves today. My wife took it only when she was pregnant, just for one month.

    Jamila Paksima (NOW Producer): Why are you not taking it?

    John: The main reason is that I cannot afford it.

    --The average Nigerian earns $260 per year and anti-retroviral treatment costs $700 per month. John is on a long waiting list to receive free anti-retrovirals from the government.

  • NIGERIA: Sinka, Nurse: Excerpts from interviews conducted during the Carter/Gates trip through Africa.

    --Sinka, a nurse and a member of the Nigerian Committee of Women Living with HIV, also cannot afford buying anti-retrovirals in Nigeria. She gets her medication sent to her for free by a friend from the United States. She pays for the postage.

    Reporter: One of the main arguments over providing anti-retrovirals in developing countries is that people, particularly in the rural areas, really can't follow a complicated treatment regime. From what you know about taking the drugs and what you know about this country, how big a problem do you think that is?

    Sinka: There is no problem. One thing I know about us here in Nigerian is that once a Nigerian know that this thing is okay for health, prolonged life, I can assure you that he or she will judiciously take the medicine and will do it very well. Because we value life.

    Jamila Paksima (NOW Producer): In the community, how do people treat someone here who's HIV positive?

    Sinka: It's very bad, very sad. I've had to witness a lot of discrimination and stigmatization. Even from the hospital setting. I've seen patients that are treated with scorn. From nurses, from doctors, they will simply run away from them. It's really made me sad every time I witnessed this because this is a group of people that are well respected by community people. So they think that whatever a doctor or nurse says it's right. So by the time people living with HIV are treated with scorn from them, they believe oh, that thing is quite contagious so they shouldn't go near. So we have experienced a lot of stigma.

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