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Imms Walks 700 kilometres to fight stigma

Tue, 27 May 2014 05:16
by Andreas Kathindi

HIV/Aids activist Immanuel Sheefeni known as Imms last week started a trek from Ongwediva to Windhoek in order to raise awareness towards HIV and Aids.
Sheefeni who is himself HIV positive was diagnosed in June 2013 and soon came out with his status before he began speaking publicly about the disease and informing people how to protect themselves.
On Sunday, at 6am, without telling anyone including his family or closest friends, in Ongwediva Sheefeni began a trek to Windhoek, wearing a red shirt and a red back pack and sharing informing people about HIV and Aids as he goes along.
On why Sheefeni chose walking 708 km to Windhoek as a means to raise awareness, he said, “I did it for three reasons. I wanted to get people talking again. HIV is one of those things that can be topical when someone close is infected, but people quickly forget and continue to engage in unsafe sex when it is a reality.” He adds, “ I also wanted to get people talking, whether they’re saying something positive or negative.” Indeed Immanuel has received negative feedback on Facebook regarding his walk.
Ndina Tilla Iilonga said, “How the hell will walking help create awareness? Why not do some volunteering work in clinics and hospitals if you really want to do something for free? You are killing yourself and dying along with the people that are positive RIP attention seeker.”
However, he argues “Everyone will always judge you no matter what you do. If HIV/Aids is a topic of discussion and people are learning in whatever way about how to protect themselves, then that is good.”
Sheefeni also took the decision to go on the walk to prove to people that people infected with HIV are healthy enough to do normal jobs just like people, and possibly even more if their minds are up to it.
“There is a stigma that has gone around for a long that once you are infected, you are sick and cannot do anything. I also know that infected people are often excluded from promotions in the work place regardless of their CD4 counts. Going on this long walk should show people that we can do just about anything,” he said.
After leaving his room in Ongwediva, Sheefeni contacted regional commander of Oshana region Ndahangwapo Kashihakunmwa and informed of his plans. The commissioner was very supportive and provided him with police patrol to constantly check on him during his walk.
“When he told me his program, I understood it positively—as someone who was a civilian before I was on the force, and as the regional commander of the began his walk from. He is a good example for the rest of the nation. Our country, like many others on the African continent is greatly affected by HIV/Aids and I applaud Sheefeni for his initiative,” says regional commander, Kashihakunmwa.
 He further added that he has also communicated to other regional commanders, such as Joseph Anghuwo, Regional Commander of Otjozondupa.
“On Monday I woke and my feet were very sore, but I used warm water to wash them and some ointment as well which has brought the swelling down.”
He has been checking himself hospital and clinic at every town that he reaches, to make sure he is still healthy enough to continue with his journey.
Sheefeni reached Windhoek yesterday afternoon at 12pm. Furthermore, after reaching the capital, he took to the Mayor’s office where he has been invited upon completion of his walk.