Ethio Youth Media TV in partnership with Center Multicultural Health presents “HIV/AIDS Prevention & Awareness” in the Ethiopian community. This is a conversation with Ethio Youth Media host Belen Mesele and Mr. Solomon Berhe, to create awareness and prevent HIV/AIDS in the Ethiopian community. Mr. Solomon is a community HIV/AIDS Advocate in the Seattle and surrounding area for the number of years. The video was sponsored by Center for Multicultural Health of Seattle and published on YouTube Jul 15, 2012:
In the Ethiopian community HIV is associated with shame and blame (and possibly there are some who associate it with evil spirit). Because of the negative stigma and discrimination associated with the disease, the majority of people in this community rarely share their HIV status. In this interview, Mr. Berhe who is a community HIV advocate, shares his experience about living with HIV. Although he has experienced discrimination in the community in relation to his HIV status, he has not given up on becoming a strong voice to increase HIV awareness. He emphasizes the importance of embracing and improving treatment of people who are HIV positive in the community. Mr. Berhe shares his insight by saying “Stigma and discrimination hinder the prevention, treatment and care of the disease. Therefore, it’s important to tackle the issue of stigma in our community.” He mentions in the video that some people are afraid to be seen with him because others tend to discriminate against them for being with him.
Mr. Berhe was diagnosed with HIV about 20 years ago after experiencing symptoms of a sore on his face, feeling tired and being repeatedly sick. A doctor proposed that he get tested for HIV. Although it was devastating to hear the news, he quickly managed to get all the help he needed such as pharmacological therapy and psychosocial support. He comments in the video that religious leaders should have done much more in teaching to avoid stigma and discrimination. He initially had HIV related lesions on his face. Since he had access to health care and an effective medical treatment, the lesions were able to heal quickly. However in the first years after diagnosis, Mr. Berhe interrupted his medication and faced some problems. But subsequently he become strictly adherent and gained his full health. He stresses the importance of adherence to the medicines. Mr. Berhe encourages people from the community to get screened for HIV and immediately seek help if their test results are positive.
He contemplated living in hiding like most people who have HIV in the community. However, he made the choice to serve the community by setting an unprecedented example. People are still surprised by how brave he is to come forward and to teach others from his experience of living with the virus. He leads a happy life and shares a strong message that being a carrier of HIV does not stop him from carrying out daily tasks and pursuing his dreams. He mentions in the video that there are people who secretly communicate and disclose their HIV status to him, and ask him to introduce them to potential partners. He has facilitated partnerships and some of these couples have had successful marriage.
Additional videos with Mr. Berhe with other local health professionals and activists raising awareness on World AIDS Day 2014: