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Reform Magazine | March 23, 2018

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A letter from… Ethiopia

A letter from… Ethiopia

As a widow living together with my only daughter of eight years, I was ashamed of my HIV status, so I kept it secret from both my daughter and other people. One day, my daughter came home troubled by some neighbours who had hinted that her mother might be HIV-infected. I was shocked and didn’t know how to answer; so I denied everything and said they lied about me. The truth was that I was lying to my daughter!

The HIV association I belonged to was invited to take part in the Bible Society’s Good Samaritan programme in 2010. This training changed everything for me. HIV was not a punishment for sin, as I had been told when my husband died. HIV infection is no more shameful than other sicknesses, and we can get treatment and live positively. At the workshop, I started to share my experiences. And the material that I received to train others, I first used on my daughter. I gave her the booklet to read, and we saw a film about a young student who got infected. I encouraged her to ask questions about what she read and saw. Finally I asked her directly: “Why do you think we have all this HIV information in our house?” Then I shared openly with her about my status.

My daughter was shocked. She read more and asked many questions. Then I said to her: “Why are you only sitting inside? Do you think you will die?” She answered: “No, but I am afraid my mother will die. And I am afraid others will hear about you and say terrible things about us.”

I had to give her time, but today she is as open as me. We have nothing to hide! Sometimes when she has got a banana she gives it to me saying: “This is good for your health, mammy.” If I have sores, she helps me to treat them. We are very careful to have all personal effects separated; we know how to be cautious.

I use all opportunities to reach out with information about HIV, especially to prevent mother-to-child infection. I work closely with the local medical centre and I have decided to reach out to every woman in my area urging her to get tested and if necessary to get treatment to prevent the child becoming infected. I talk with women individually and train groups of women and men, both separately and together.

At one point I had 360 pregnant women on my follow-up list and we got 359 HIV-free children! This is my success story. It makes me feel useful and happy.

When I learnt I was infected, I felt weak and had great pain for many years. But the Good Samaritan programme raised me up. I want to reach the people who are lowest down and most hurt. When I see they can be raised up again, I get strong too.

Hirut Alemayhu is an HIV health trainer on the Good Samaritan programme, an initiative of United Bible Societies, a fellowship of 145 national Bible Societies. To find out more about the programme, including how to support it, visit or email


This article was published in the May 2014 edition of  Reform.

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