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Living with HIV: Why John has hope

I love what I do because I am financially independent…

John was a lively young man, with a girlfriend and a job that he loved. But when he was diagnosed HIV-positive five years ago, his life turned upside down. Thanks to the support of SOS Children Rwanda, he is now active and confident again.

John has been supported by our work in Rwanda since 2005. He is representative of all the young people who receive assistance from our programme there. This support includes a monthly package of food containing beans, rice, corn flour, sorghum, fish, oil, salt, sugar and boxes of milk. 

In January 2006, John was awarded a small start-up grant for an income-generating activity. He now sells various foodstuffs in a market not far from SOS Children's Village Kigali. Among the goods he offers are rice and pasta, salt, sugar, snacks, oil, ground nuts, tomatoes, and also soap, toilet paper, shoe polish and scouring pads. John is proud of this activity and he enjoys having a business. He says,

"I go to the market at 6 a.m. to set up my goods. When I have finished, I take about thirty minutes for my breakfast. I take a small break at midday and I go home around 7 p.m. I sell at the market from Monday to Saturday. I dedicate Sunday to church and free time with my eighteen-month-old daughter. 
My business is going well at the moment; this business is the only source of income that I have. It allows me to live decently and to pay for daily necessities. I also use this income to pay rent and buy food - and I also save from time to time. When I am ill, I go to the hospital and I am treated free of charge. I love what I do because I am financially independent and that allows me to avoid begging." 

"It was not easy at all"

John had an active life: a job, a salary and many friends. One day, all this disappeared because he found out that he was HIV-positive. John recalls, 

"After finding out about my situation, it was not easy at all. When I was told that I was HIV-positive, I thought it was a joke, I didn't believe it. I spent several weeks feeling sorry for myself, asking myself what happened to me. I cried a lot, I didn't want to accept that I was infected. I could not imagine that I would stay alive for more than a week. 
When the news of my illness reached my office, I was dismissed outright. My boss thought I would either die very soon or contaminate the other colleagues. I found myself alone without friends or a job, and I realized that there was a problem. I began to accept the hard reality that it was necessary to fight to survive. I had no money, no savings and could not imagine that I would overcome this situation."

John's girlfriend left him, and he found himself alone with a six-month-old baby. He remembers, 

"It was even more difficult as I did not know how to take care of a baby. I did not know how to calm her cries during the night. I used to walk with my baby all day long to find something to eat…but this was not easy because I couldn't walk every day due to my illness."

A new life full of hope

Thanks to the support of the SOS Children's Villages programme, John is feeling much better. The programme provides John with antiretroviral (ARV) medication, and he visits the hospital regularly for check-ups. His daughter also receives assistance. John feels better and better and has made several ambitious plans for the future. 

"One of my first projects is to enlarge my business by buying more goods. I would like to open a boutique in a more popular place," he said, smiling. "I would also like to get married, but I don't know if it will be easy. All in all, I keep my fingers crossed!"

For privacy reasons, we have changed the name of the man involved in the text.

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