"I considered myself lucky to be alive"

"I considered myself lucky to be alive"

Seven years ago Sinkenesh from Ethiopia found out she's living with HIV. Although shocked she realized she had to strengthen herself. With support of her brother she started in dairy. The knowledge on how to manage such a business did she gain in the Aidsfonds Livelihoods Programme Ethiopia.

In total state of dispair
I had a persistent cough at that time and had gone to the hospital for a checkup. I was in total state of despair when I was told I am living with HIV. I did not want to be seen in the community and hid myself. Before I liked to mingle with people but didn’t do this anymore. My husband and I decided together to divorce. He is HIV negative and we needed to save his life to look after our children. As a coping mechanism I moved from the center of Awassa to Dato Odahe, where nobody knew me. Because of stigma it was difficult to rent a place still. I was so skinny. I had no hope to live.

Although I was shocked, I realized that I had to strengthen myself. I considered myself lucky to be alive and started having hope. Mixing with other people who are living with HIV much supported my internal process. Moreover I met with a well-known activist, she had been the first woman to disclose her HIV status in Awassa area. Her strength inspired me a lot and helped me to adapt.

No milk from someone living with HIV
Next step in my life was to make a living to sustain myself and my children. With the support of my brother I started in dairy. It was a difficult market as people were not happy to buy milk from a person living with HIV. To be honest I had started just like that without having any idea how to manage a business and such dairy activities. 

Sinkenesh with her cow Sinkenesh with her cow

Five cows make a good living
Through the project of Aidsfonds I got training and managed to strengthen my business. I already had one cow, now I have 3 cows and 2 calves. Luckily all females so I can make profit with the milk. This will generate at least 50 liters of milk, and with a minimum of 15 birr per liter, I’ll be able to make up to 750 birr net a day (28 euro) in future. I can calculate this with 100% of confidence. This is good.

To be able to make a living and sustain my three children makes me feel very grateful and satisfied. The hard time I had gone through, and look at my situation today. I feel healthy and take my HIV medication each day. Two of my children are in grade four and grade ten. My oldest recently gave birth to twins, so I’m a grandmother. My ex-husband and I are in close contact and he often comes to visit the kids. Our relationship is smooth, no quarrels. My business is very profitable and I’m planning to expand. I have been to the local government  office asking for a piece of land to scale up my activities and distribute milk. So I can also work for the benefit of the community and create jobs for others. There is no way to express my satisfaction. I’m so very grateful.

Aidsfonds Livelihoods Programme Ethiopia
HIV and livelihoods are very much interlinked. Lack of income increases vulnerability to HIV and similarly HIV affects ones livelihoods. Lack of financial means and nutrition negatively influences adherence to HIV treatment. Poverty and stigma fuels the spread of the epidemic.

The Aidsfonds Livelihoods Programme in Ethiopia focuses on preventing  the spread of HIV and mitigating its impacts through economic  strengthening of vulnerable groups, such as people living with HIV, low income households, and marginalized women and children. It is aimed at economically empowering these groups, by creating access to financial means and skill development for engagement in productive livelihood activities.

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