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A young man’s race from 200,000 to undetectable HIV viral load

A young man’s race from 200,000 to undetectable HIV viral load

“The fear of being stigmatized and discriminated after losing my parents and living with my relatives who did not have HIV prompted me to stop taking my ARVs,” says 20-year-old Godfrey John Manoni.

He lost both of his parents when he was just 11 years old, prompting a cousin to take up the responsibility of taking care of him after his grandmother’s house crumbled. He currently lives in Nyamagana District, Mwanza City.

“My parents did not tell me that I was living with HIV. I only came to know after asking my grandmother why I was taking medication every day. After knowing my status, I felt that I was different from my peers. There was no hope for me,” says Godfrey.

Back in 2018, his HIV viral load was found to be 200,000. Asked why he stopped taking his ARV as directed by healthcare providers, Godfrey said it was because of fear of stigmatization, and he always hid while taking ARVs. The Care and Treatment Centre (CTC) Godfrey used to attend made a follow-up, provided counseling and reinstated him to ART.

CTC healthcare providers sat down with him and advised him to take his ARVs as directed. After a while his viral load decreased from 200,000 to 50,000, then 11,000 and in April 2019 results showed that the viral load was suppressed.

“We linked him up with the youth club and made a closer follow-up by calling regularly to remind him to take his ARVs every day. We have seen tremendous improvement in his health. I advise my fellow healthcare providers to readily provide psychosocial support to children and adolescents who need it,” says Dr. Shamimu of Igoma Health Centre.

“I was previously apprehensive after knowing that I live with HIV, but I’m now open about my status after learning from clubs that there are many other young people living with HIV, and that contracting the virus should not mean the end of the world. I learned to let the bygones be bygones,” says Godfrey after being asked how he feels.

Godfrey is among 14,825 youth aged between 15 to 24 living with HIV who are receiving care and treatment supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and implemented by the Ariel Glaser Pediatric AIDS Healthcare Initiative (AGPAHI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children in Mwanza, Simiyu, Mara and Shinyanga regions.