For most Somalis, AIDS and HIV are a complete taboo. They shun those living with the disease and some health workers refuse to treat them.
48 year-old Asha Dhodan, who works for the police force in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, is a woman of great courage. She has taken five HIV positive women into her house in the city of Hargeisa, where she has been caring for them for the past four years.
All of the women were infected by their husbands and were thrown out of their homes when their families discovered they had the disease.
Asha suffers great prejudice too.
“People shout at me for taking these women into my home,” she says. “They shun me in the same way they shun HIV/ AIDS patients.”
Amina Abdulahi is one of the women being cared for by Asha. She has 11 children and caught the disease from her husband who has three other wives.
“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 the disease.”
She was chased out of her home and was living in the bush when Asha found her.
The women’s health has improved since Asha took them in. She cooks them healthy meals and makes sure they take their antiretroviral medication which is provided free of charge by the Red Crescent.
All five women have developed mental health problems because of the way they have been treated by the community. They fear leaving Asha’s home because people shout at them and chase them away.
It is thanks to Asha alone that these women have a home, food and take their life-saving medication regularly.