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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Love aid for Ethiopians with Aids
By Damian Zane
BBC, Addis Ababa

Many people find it hard to meet the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend - this is especially so if they're HIV positive.

mesfin
Mesfin: Found love through the radio show
But a radio programme in Ethiopia called Yebakal - meaning "That's enough" - has started a match-making/dating service for people living with Aids.

Yebakal, funded by Action Aid Ethiopia, aims to end the stigma associated with the virus and the isolation of those who are positive.

The makers of Yebakal, go to the studio three times a week, to talk to the estimated three million listeners about HIV Aids - with the help of experts, songs, dramas and letters from listeners.

Some letters are from well wishers. But many of those who write in seem to agree with the central message: that Ethiopia must get to grips with its Aids problem.

And it also seems that people who are HIV positive like the anonymity that writing to a radio programme can give them, and they also know it gets results.

Mesfin, a 34-year-old security guard, found a new partner after writing this letter.

Dear Yebakal,

It was a week before my wedding ceremony when my fiancee's family raised the issue of HIV testing. We were both tested.
Letters
The show gets listeners writing
She was negative, but I turned out to have HIV in my blood - fortunately we had never had sexual intercourse.
She still wanted to get married, but I couldn't go ahead with it.
Ever since then I have felt very bitter about life.
I never thought I'd be able to get married and have a normal life.
When I heard you had started a programme where HIV positive people can meet each other, I felt very happy.
Please pass my name on to any woman who wants to meet me.

Mesfin told me how he felt when he met a woman that responded to his letter.

"I was very happy when I met her, it was in fact like a dream, I was very delighted, because she was just like me.

"She is someone who I can tell everything to. In fact, she is a person who made me realise that I can live a happy and responsible life.

Mesfin is now engaged to be married.

Going through the letters that the programme gets, it is obvious that so many HIV positive people feel isolated and depressed - and Yebakal aims to reach out to them.




SEE ALSO:
Woman's bid to break Aids cycle
06 Jan 03  |  Africa


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