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My name is Mama, I am a person living with HIV in Gambia.  I work with the PLHIV support groups.  I have been doing this for 10 years.  When people here in Gambia are diagnosed with HIV some become traumatized and isolate themselves from the society.  When family members or their partners find out, they are abandoned and are divorced.  This brings stress to them and results in depression.  They experience anxiety too because they think it is the end of the world and that they are going to die.  They don’t understand that HIV is not a death sentence.

But through counseling and the help of the support groups, by talking to other people living with HIV, they realize that they won’t die if they are on medication and they have hope.  Through the support groups, their lives change, they see that they are not alone and this helps them.  Often they are living home alone, but when they go to support groups they have friends and a family.  The support group brings togetherness.  They help reduce stress and trauma.

We advise people in the support groups to take their medications and to not stress so that they can stay healthy.  Sometimes members of the support group want to commit suicide, but we are able to support them and they change their mind.  It’s easier for people living with HIV to talk to other people with HIV as they can understand them better and the mental health issues they are going through.

I hope one day there will be a cure for HIV.  I also hope that we will continue to get medications to treat HIV.