makethislast

Association du Jour and PLWHA in Morocco

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on June 3, 2011

They [PLWHA] look just like, well, ‘normal’ people. You can’t even tell they are sick.

– Moroccan community partner

As part of the VAST Training, we – PCVS and community partners – took a field trip to Association du Jour in Casablanca.

This organization is the only one of its kind in Morocco. It doesn’t simply work to “fight HIV/AIDS” rather it reaches out to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. It is an organization that is run by an openly HIV/AIDS positive woman. It provides a safe place for People Living With HIV/AIDS (or, in public health lingo, PLWHA) to gather. It organizes meals, support services, field trips and outings for these people.

Various association members, men and women, spoke to us. I think they were by far the best part of the field trip for PCVs but mostly definitely for the Moroccans who were present.

Imagine finding out you got HIV/AIDS from a blood transfusion.

Imagine having a severely sick husband whose doctor waits until your husband’s last few moments of life to tell you that your husband is dying of SIDA. Then be told that you and likely your son are infected too.

Imagine your family members wearing gloves every time they interact with you because they fear acquiring the disease from you.

Imagine chatting with someone you meet on the street one day then having that person tell you the next day that s/he was told not to socialize with you because you have HIV/AIDS.

Imagine being denied medical services and treatment by medical professionals because you have HIV/AIDS.

Imagine living under the stressful weight of being found of of being HIV/AIDS positive. Being overly sensitive to your surroundings because you can’t imagine what you’d do, how the community would react, how you would respond if people found out you have HIV/AIDS. Immediately turning around the moment you spot a camera in someone’s hand, for fear that s/he will take a picture of you and publish it with the label “HIV/AIDS positive.”

Imagine being a parent who has HIV/AIDS to young children living in a society that discriminates against people who have HIV/AIDS.

These were just a few of the anecdotes that were shared by the members of Association du Jour.

Access to services, treatment and care are limited in Morocco so the association operates an 8-bed house for people traveling to Casablanca for tests, treatment, and support.

No surprise, I played with the children who were there. Their parents are living with HIV/AIDS. Some of them are too young to understand “stigma” and “discrimination.” Even so, what an amazing environment for them to grow up in.

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