The ‘Here I Am’ campaign presents the personal stories of those who are alive today thanks to the programmes supported by the Global Fund. It reminds us what has been achieved yet the imperative need to continue efforts to provide prevention and treatment through projects supported by the Fund.
The campaign has been launched in advance of the Third Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria due to take place in October. Amidst a global recession, when donors appear to be reducing their donations, it is more urgent than ever for the Global Fund to be renewed.
Banza Chela, 39, of Zambia, has been a Key Correspondent since 2006. He shares his story: “In early 2005 my health started deteriorating. I didn’t know anything about HIV and I still to this day have no idea how I contracted the disease.
“Feeling chest pains I thought I might have TB but after visiting three clinics in Lusaka none were able to diagnose the problem. I lost confidence in the health centres and gave up, waiting at home to die.
“My weight fell from 68kg to 47kg so my wife and children took me to see my brother who is a doctor in Lubumbashi, DRC. I lost my memory and had no idea where I was…I was half dead.
“They discovered I had both TB and HIV. My CD count was 37. I was started on medication on the same day for the two diseases.
“Thanks to the Global Fund, my life has since changed in so many ways in terms of both positive living and community. I’ve joined a support group of people living with HIV called Chibusa which means ‘friend’ in Bemba, my language.
“I don’t have any paid jobs but I have three positions all supported by Global Fund through Zambia National AIDS Network (ZNAN). I use what I gain from these roles to help my children go to school and support my family.
“My motivation for joining the Here I Am Campaign is my children, to keep them alive. I treat Global Fund like my mother and father so I am participating in this campaign because I need it for my family. I need it to make sense of my life. Here I Am.”
Michael Gwaba, 41, also of Zambia, has been a Key Correspondents since 2008. He shares his story: “In 1999 I lost my fiancée and son to AIDS-related illness within six months of each other. Then I began to lose weight from Kaposi’s sarcoma which I learned to be an AIDS-related illness and without surprise, I lost my job.
“In 2000, my sister convinced me to take an HIV test. I tested positive for the virus and had a CD4 count of 41. I was sure I was going to die but was started on ARVs and chemotherapy.
“I know how important the Global Fund is. My health has improved from having access to ARVs and my CD4 count is now 780. The inevitable resulting lack of treatment would very likely mean I would be dead within a year, along with thousands of others living with HIV around the world.
“We all have our place, please remember us. Please remember me. Here I am.”
The ambassadors will be visiting a number of international events this year including the International Aids conference in Vienna and the MDG summit where they will provide interviews and participate in panels, discussions and other activities. For more information and to get involved with the campaign, visit www.hereiamcampaign.org.
I was sure I was going to die but was started on ARVs and chemotherapy. Here I am