Stephen, 25, from Maridi County in South Sudan, has lived with HIV for two years, but has kept it a secret from his wife. He says he wants to be open about his status, but fears his wife’s reaction.

“I cannot tell from whom I got HIV. I have had many girlfriends with whom I had unprotected sex.

Most of my relatives, friends – even my mother-in-law – know that I am HIV-positive, only my wife doesn’t know. I fear that if I tell her she may kill herself. That’s why I don’t use condoms [when I sleep with her], because if I do, she would be suspicious. I told all my relatives not to tell her, too.

Now our son has died of the disease. I know it, but she doesn’t know yet. When she begins to fall ill, then I will suggest to her that she comes for an HIV test. But I don’t know yet how to tell her, and how to handle her when she finds out her status.

There are no HIV medicines here at all – that is the biggest problem we have. I often go to Uganda or Juba [the capital] to get the ARVs [antiretrovirals], but that is very far and costly.

There is very little knowledge about the prevalence of the disease in Maridi; it would also be good if the government could initiate programmes that can teach the public about HIV infection here. If such programmes are launched, I can offer to talk to people openly about my status so that they know it is real, and also that even if one has it, it is not the end of a person’s life.

I can just advise people that nobody ever knows they are going to get HIV; let nobody look at an HIV-positive person and isolate them. I advise everyone to take good care of themselves; with that, I think HIV infection will reduce in this place.”

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