Asha Dhodan has taken on a role that most Somalis would shy away from. She cares for homeless people living with HIV/ AIDS in Hargeisa.
Although she has limited resources herself and has a demanding job in the police force, 48 year-old Asha works tirelessly to help those suffering from a disease that many people refuse to talk about or acknowledge. There is tremendous prejudice towards people with HIV/ AIDS in the Somali community.
Asha has been caring for five HIV positive women for nearly four years. They all live with her in her house.
“These women had no idea their husbands had the disease,” she says. “They were all thrown out of their homes by their families so I took them in.”
Asha feeds the women making sure they have healthy, balanced diets as this is crucial for people living with HIV/ AIDS. She makes sure they take their antiretroviral medication which is provided free of charge by the Red Crescent.
Caring for these women has led to Asha being stigmatised by the community.
“People shout at me, saying I have sick women living in my home. They don’t offer to help. They shun me in the same way they shun HIV/ AIDS patients.”
Asha’s care has helped improved the health of the five women. She would like to encourage them to go out and try to earn a living but is aware of the immense difficulties they face.
“The problem is that the prejudice they suffer has led to them developing mental health problems. They lack the confidence to go out and take the bus. They cannot with cope the hostility they encounter. People chase them away and shout at them saying ‘Those are the women with the disease’.”
Amina Abdulahi is one of the women living in Asha’s home. She has had 11 children and caught the disease from her husband who has three other wives.
“When I first became ill, I had no idea what was wrong with me,” she says. “I had never heard of HIV/ AIDS. As I cannot read or write, I was unable to find out anything about it.”
Amina was thrown out of her home when the family discovered she had HIV/ AIDS.
“I was living in the bush. People would chase me away whenever they saw me. Nobody would rent me a place to live because of my condition. I would like to purchase a plot of land and build a home there. If the land and the house belong to me nobody can chase me away from it.”
Amina says she wishes the public would look after people living with HIV/ AIDS rather than shunning them. For now, it is thanks to Asha alone that these women have a home, food and other basic essentials.