HIV is my good friend
“HIV is a permanent friend and I have learnt how to love and care for him. We have to live together, but I am still able to do anything.”
Pacifique is 20 and lives in Bujumbura, Burundi. He was born with HIV, but he didn't find out until he was ten years old.
At first, finding out he was HIV positive was hard. “I thought that an HIV positive person can’t do anything or achieve his plans. The thing that upset me most was to think I would never have a child, because I love children. At that time, I was thinking that when you are HIV positive you could not do anything except wait for death.”
In 2008, three years after finding out his status and now a teenager, he met a youth group, Réseau National des Jeunes Vivant avec le VIH/SIDA (RNJ+).
"Now I realise everything is possible," says Pacifique. He's the director of a youth theatre group and has a great network of family and friends. He looks forward to his future positively and having his own family. “My girlfriend is HIV negative... I love her and she loves me, and if possible we would be able to have healthy children. She doesn’t mind me being positive. She said to me that love does not discriminate.”
A vital community
RNJ+ was able to open a centre for its members in May 2014 thanks to Link Up, an ambitious project which is improving the sexual and reproductive health and rights of of one million young people affected by HIV across five countries in Africa and Asia.
The centre is the only one of its kind in Burundi because unlike other youth centres in the country it is open to everyone, including sex workers and men who have sex with men/LGBTI. It offers information, training, HIV counselling and testing, contraception advice and male and female condoms, a helpline, and community and schools outreach. It is run entirely by young people, for young people.
Link Up is being implemented by a consortium of partners led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. It is funded by the Government of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Fund.