Those stirring words apply to the human condition today just as much as they did in 1933, when President Roosevelt gave his uplifting inaugural address. FDR was urging his fellow Americans not to sink into despair about the massive economic slump, now known as the Depression. However, the paralysing phenomenon he described – fear – remains a significant factor in so many aspects of life in Africa.
For instance, fear is the main factor preventing people in Africa from getting tested for HIV. As we mark the UN day of zero discrimination against people with HIV, we are celebrating the courage of one of our friends in Uganda.
Mary is 42 years old, and, like many of her peers, she has a big family – six children. When she was first told she was HIV positive, Mary was gripped by fear. She was so afraid that people in her town would find out, she could not bring herself go to the health centre for her medication. As a result, she became visibly thinner and increasingly unwell.
Thankfully, Sarah, a counsellor at our Ugandan project, PCCO, noticed Mary’s deteriorating condition. Quietly and discreetly, she explained to Mary how vital it is to take antiretroviral treatment regularly. Sarah convinced her that her health would improve significantly if she found the courage to collect her medication from the clinic.
Soon, Mary gained weight and found she had more energy. She was once more able to farm her land, and to earn the money she needs to support her family. Sarah also advised Mary on the healthiest food choices.
Having conquered her fear, Mary even told her neighbours that she was HIV positive, and, to her relief, she found they were so sympathetic that they are now helping her. Emboldened by these first steps, Mary has become a community advocate, encouraging other HIV positive people to take their medication. She is also enthusiastic about the radio shows our Ugandan partner, PCCO, has been broadcasting, reaching people who still feel stigmatized by their condition.
Mary knows what it is like to hide from the world, terrified of the judgment of others; and she is now reaching out, with confidence. Her fear will never again stop her.
Help us support others like Mary to overcome their fear. Click the arrow to the right to donate.