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Young Gambian HIV positive patient speaks

Dec 28, 2011, 1:07 PM | Article By: Sainey MK Marenah

A young Gambian diagnosed with the HIV virus 14 years ago has openly declared that he is HIV positive, and he made history by biking the breath and length of the entire country distributing 10,000 condoms as part of his crusade to fight the deadly virus.

Muhammed Barry, a 20-year-old Gambian currently undergoing treatment in the U.K, was in The Gambia purposely for this crusade.

He trekked the whole nation with a bicycle in one week, distributing more than 10, 000 condoms as part of events marking World AIDS Day.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with this reporter shortly after arriving from the week-long crusade, Barry described HIV prevention as very important noting that, on a daily basis, about 7000 people get infected with HIV, and among them 3000 are young people between the ages 14-24.

“I am doing this crusade in line with the World AIDS Day commemoration, which calls for zero HIV/AIDS new infection and for political and leadership commitment from governments in averting the AIDS pandemic,” he explained.

HIV/AIDS, he said, is a reality in The Gambia.

“It is something that people have to be aware of because there is increased apathy,” he said, while urging people, especially the young ones, to use a condom if they cannot abstain from sex and be faithful to their partners.

“I am taking it as a responsibility not only as a young person from The Gambia, but a young person living with the virus. I actually started my journey from Churchill’s Town, went up to Banjul, Barra then down to Basse with some night stops in villages, where I discussed with young people about the HIV/AIDS virus, and ways and means of preventing oneself,” Barry told this reporter.

He stated that the initiative to embark on such journey is a personal cause and contribution in averting the HIV/AIDs pandemic in the country, and making the country HIV/AIDS-free.

While calling for attitudinal change among the young people towards the virus, Barry said he happily lives with the virus, and deems it not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to accelerate every point in human development, especially things that he would have been able to understand as a young man.

“I have seen different people with this virus, and I have seen realities,” he said.

Asked how he feels being HIV positive, Barry said: “I thank God that I have not seen any stigma or discrimination as I have been going around the town explaining my mission; I feel I’m not discriminated against or stigmatized.”

He called on the young people to take leadership roles to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in The Gambia, adding that Gambia is among countries where HIV/AIDS is silently crippling people.

“I have enjoyed support from my family, who has shielded me from stigma and discrimination to become a happy man,” he stated.

“We have been doing great work on the ground, when it comes to HIV/AIDS in this country,” Abdou Jatta, focal person of the Youth Coalition Against HIV/AIDS, said in his reaction to the story.

Describing Barry as courageous, Jatta said young people in the country believe that they are always at high risk, when it comes to HIV/AIDS.