|© UNICEF/HQ05-1504/ Toutounji|
|Livey Van Wyk (centre) is a peer educator with several HIV/AIDS programmes in Namibia.|
By Livey Van WykLivey Van Wyk, 20, is from Windhoek in Namibia. She has been living with HIV since the age of 16. The birth of her son inspired Livey to seek counselling and support and to speak out about her HIV status. Now Livey has trained to be a peer educator and works with young people. She explained to UNICEF that her goal is to reduce the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS and to warn others about the dangers.
WINDHOEK, Namibia, 01 November 2005 – “The biggest challenge I face is stigma and discrimination. The way I fight it is to speak out to young people. Especially young people because they have a greater chance of becoming infected with the virus and they think HIV will not affect them.
“I have lost many things while having been infected. I lost my parents, my family – not that they died, but they have decided they don’t want anything to do with me. I lost my friends. I lost my school.
“It’s difficult. I’ve been walking in the streets when people have thrown stones at me.
“It is very difficult to live with the virus, but I think that I have gained some self-esteem to fight it back. To fight my life back.”
|© UNICEF/HQ05-1499/ Toutounji|
|Livey Van Wyk (far left) was one of four young people affected by HIV/AIDS who visited New York for the launch of the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS Campaign on 25 October 2005.|
Working with young people
“When I go out to youth I tell them that HIV can also affect them. I also share with them that it’s not easy to live with the virus because you face many challenges.
“Speaking out as a young person, sharing with young people really means something – I have seen behavioural changes.
“Young people are very powerful when they are together. I think when they are together they can set a very good future, but there should be a plan because they can’t do it alone. They need some help somewhere.
“I think that our leaders should know that young people are the leaders of tomorrow and that we feel we have been very much neglected. Government has not really listened to us. They see the situations they are going through but they don’t really try to see ways to help us.
“It’s going to take our country a while to give HIV a human face, to understand that it’s not a virus that you can decide for me that I’m going to die now or that I don’t have any future or any life. I’m just a normal human being having this virus inside of me. Nobody can deny my rights.”
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