Times of Zambia news editor recalls how he discoverd he had HIV

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There are 2.04 million people in Zambia (population 13.8 million) who are HIV positive. One of them is journalist Enock Ngoma, deputy news editor at a national daily paper, the Times of Zambia. He has worked in newspapers for 22 years. In addition to his editorial work, Ngoma writes a weekly column, Aids Corner, in the Sunday edition of the paper.

He sits in his office off the paper’s small newsroom on Lusaka’s Freedom Way and recalls grimly how he discovered he was HIV positive.

“It was 1997. I was due to spend a month in the US on a one-month programme in Washington. At that time, you had to take a HIV test before you were permitted a visa to travel to the US. I was tested, and the following day, I went to get my results.

“A US doctor told me I was HIV positive and that I could not travel. There was no counselling. I remember walking around afterwards in shock. I was devastated.”

Once diagnosed, Ngoma had a new understanding and a “passion” about the importance of how the HIV story was reported in the media. “I thought I could help others. I thought: ‘what can I do to play a part in the story?’”

He started to write his Aids Corner weekly column six years ago.

Tackling stigma

Ngoma received a huge response to a column he wrote early last year. “It was on stigma and discrimination,” he says.

He wrote about a HIV positive barber who was working in the market of Mtendere township, and whose photograph the paper also carried. The intention of the column was to remind readers that HIV positive people can, and do, carry out normal lives and professions.

Initially, the barber was ostracised by his community in the township. He lost customers and there were calls to get him “thrown out of the market because people were afraid they would get HIV from his barber implements”.

But gradually, people in other businesses in the market came forward to join the barber to say that they were also HIV positive. Together, they formed a group to combat discrimination.

“One by one, people joined him, and in that market there are now more than 45 people who have businesses there who are also HIV positive. He has got back his business and customers are flocking to him.” Ngoma wrote about all this in a follow-up column.

Ironically, given he found out his HIV status via a thwarted trip to the US, he is now a frequent visitor there. “From the time I started writing the column, I have been invited internationally to speak at conferences about HIV,” he says. His most recent trip was to Boston.

Advice and support

Ngoma says his newspaper was very poor at covering HIV and health issues – until recently. “Every Tuesday we have a health page now; it covers cancer, hypertension, TB, HIV.”

He believes that one of the most important health messages to send to readers about the topic of HIV is adherence to Anti Retroviral Drugs (ARVs, which manage the HIV virus). “Everything else is equally important – addressing stigma, encouraging people to go for counselling and testing.”

Stigma around a HIV diagnosis remains a societal barrier in Zambia. “Stigma is causing people to die, because they won’t go for testing,” he says bluntly.

Panos is a non-governmental organisation with a presence in several developing countries. It focuses on trying to ensure “that information is effectively used to foster public debate, pluralism and democracy”. In 2004, Panos established the Network of Journalists Living with HIV.

There are now 700 members, most of them living in sub-Saharan Africa. Ngoma is one of four Zambian members. Zambia used to have five members, but one reporter died last month. This is a private, members-only forum, that provides advice, contacts and support.

Journalists united

Lilian Chigona is the executive director of Lusaka’s Panos office. “The network was established as a way of helping HIV members of the media to help themselves. Self-reflection has to be part of the process,” she explains. “If you are a television presenter in Africa, you’re a celebrity, and you do not necessarily want to publicly state your HIV status.”

HIV positive journalists were not finding their way to access services for themselves even though they were reporting on stories related to the issue. “That’s why the network was set up; a private forum where journalists are free to talk and give each other advice about things like medication,”she says.

Ngoma is aware of how influential local media can be in the way HIV stories are reported, especially those that reduce stigma and encourage more people to come forward for testing.

As a journalist who writes about HIV and is HIV positive, he is also aware of the power of his own perspective in the stories he writes.

Ngoma has not yet written his own personal story for the Times of Zambia, although he is planning to do so. (He agreed to go on the record about his status for this interview with The Irish Times.)

“As people who work in the media, we are role models in society, and we should take the lead and say, ‘Yes, I am living with HIV,’” he says. “We can play our part in a small way, but that small way is one that can have a big effect.”

Courtesy of Irish Times

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44 Responses to Times of Zambia news editor recalls how he discoverd he had HIV

  1. People who suffer from HIV/AIDS feel pain – it just depends what the person has – open wounds, absecess or rash etc…!

    Nawa - December 6, 2012

  2. HIV/AIDS is now a global issue. A lot people worldwide carry the virus knownly and some unknowingly. The rate of cancer cases has risen in the last 10 years and people are dying all over the world. Zambians should treat HIV/AIDS like they do malaria and flu – AIDS is just an illness like any other.

    AIDS in Africa is over blown by the West. Rates are higher in Europe, USA (Washington D.C.) and most European countries Spain, UK, Holland, Germany, etc .. followed by Romania, Russia

    Nawa - December 6, 2012

  3. Keep up with the good work and don’t fear to go public at home. Please reflect on the word of God. Read John 3 and Luke 12. Though i’m not positive, i feel for you and commend your courage and passion to help others. May God bless you.

    ALFRED N. CHIPAWA - December 5, 2012

  4. Mr. Ngoma which report do believe. Look at the Cross of calvary there is salvation read Psalm 103 vs 1 – 5. You are a new creation forget about your past God looks at you as a new creature God does not look back when he forgives he forgets. Everymorning when you woke up declare that you are healed in Jesus’s name. there is power in the tongue.You are better off than a person who does’nt know his status. i decree that you will live long. All the best God is on your side. When we confess to Jesus that we are sinners God will forgive us but if we say that we have no sins then we are cheating ourselves. God bless you.

    ppk - December 5, 2012

  5. Mr. Ngoma you are a very strong man i can only wish you God’s Protection. There is nothing impossible with God but things are not possible with man. Just trust in your saviour the Lord Jesus he is the healer. through his striped we are healed. God’s word does not change He is the same yesterday, today and tommorrow just leave everying in his hands he is mercyful and just to forgive us our sins. i have lived with it for 22 years now. i only started medication last year and i have health children. i have just told my God that Not AIDs or the Virus shall kill me. read Isaiah 7 vs 7. depend on the word of God. My advise goes to the people who are on ARVs to adhere to the instructions. Don’t drink, don’t smoke.

    mmm3 - December 5, 2012

  6. Aids, or no aids, we shall all die, some of u suffer chinzonono for life. Aids is not paiful, u lead a normal life, what one ought to do is accept and be themself, and everthying else flows smoothly. u cannot tell i am hiv+, if i did not mention. so should we all go about exposing ou status??? once u know good for urself, and get the treatment right on. Some hiv+ persons look healthier than the negative persons, so which is which.

    Life goes on………..

    SHEKWASI - December 5, 2012

  7. You are a great man!

    chiyanga - December 5, 2012

  8. You are a hero.

    jackson - December 5, 2012


    Dr. Savimbi - December 4, 2012

  10. Nasty comments such as “Mwalesangwa Mu Club Zone” from Mushi Kontololwa have no place on this blog. I challenge Mushi Kontololwa to go get tested and to post the results. Such comments should not be shared as this is negativity and is victim blaming for an outcome that may not be true. So what if Ngoma use to go to clubs and so what if he still does now. It is people like you who cause this stigma about AIDS/HIV and why people are in denial and fear going to get tested. This ignorance needs to stop right now and you need to educate yourself and have sympathy for others.

    Ngoma is saving lives and trying to reach out to people, what are you doing? Comments about him talking about how he got the virus and how many people he infected is up to him to disclose. Again comments about “how some of these things are best left unsaid” are from people who fear the stigma and would rather die instead of getting help and getting treated. It is this very stigma and discrimination that is fueling the HIV/AIDS epedimic. Thank you Ngoma for your tremendous work and helping save lives not just in Zambia but around the world.

    End Stigma - December 4, 2012

  11. BOSS!
    Quite encouraging, considering doin V.C.T right now so can know my own, will find time to see how you can give me more info on the same!

    Keep on keepin on, KNOX!

    GOLIATH nuts - December 4, 2012

  12. It is indeed very important to know one’s status so that you can live well thereafter through making informed decisions but the best of all is to understand that AIDS is real and is killing people.What about the question of the liver vs ARVs. ARVs being administered in the Third World Countries including Zambia , are powerful drugs your liver cannot sustain them forevr.That is the reason why a liver function test is carried out before another dose is given.BEAR is discouraged to help your liver cope. So put simply ARVs yes reduce the virol level but the liver is likely to give in, so to stay alive DO NOT GET THE VIRUS OR YOU………………

    Mr.C - December 4, 2012

  13. Knox, you are the man! Aids is not the end of life. You where our friend then, you are our friend now, you will be our friend tomorrow!

    Ku Masangalatoni--Lekeni HH ateke - December 4, 2012

  14. Yeah, remember that editorial mocking a politician for not taking ARVs? I haven’t forgotten, even though it quietly disappeared from this site with no apology.

    AnAppealToCommonSense - December 4, 2012

  15. That is man!!!!!!!

    maguys - December 4, 2012

  16. May almighty God continue giving you strength. Educate more people about HIV.


    oscar sikazwe - December 4, 2012

  17. I salute you sir, very few proffessional have come out in the open. Disclosure will surely contrubute to stigma reduction.

    Hangambwa - December 4, 2012

  18. mwalesangwa mu club zone bamudala imwe

    mushi kontololwa - December 4, 2012

  19. I wish he could have talked about how he got HIV/AIDS and how many women he infected because he didn’t know his status. How many Ngoma’s are there spreading the disease and choose not to know the status?

    Zimbwi no brain - December 4, 2012

    • Some of these things are best left unsaid. But if it helps you, he used to be married to a very beautiful woman, a fellow journalist who passed on in the 90s. They were so very nice together.

      Bonzo - December 4, 2012

  20. His attitude towards work is excellent, frastration at work do not matter, A hero is a not a person who can jump with you from a plane without and save you but A PERSON that create a path that leaves a model for others and save many more lives.
    Mr Ngoma is a HERO

    Chinya Sakala - December 4, 2012

  21. probability shalls that men brouse on the net more often than women. I can see these comments are coming from men and not us women. thanks for the courage man!!

    Y Y Y - December 4, 2012


    rocktree - December 4, 2012

  23. Politics is a rotten egg if broken it stinks.

    .s-motors.net/board/ - December 4, 2012


    Andy - December 4, 2012

  25. God will always protect you my brother. I ve bn leaving with it for 21 years now. With no ARVs but am healthy cox I follow the rules of it

    smart pipo. - December 4, 2012

    • What is the secret?

      Sara - December 4, 2012

  26. Enock deserves respect. There are many journalists that have HIV but have decided to keep quiet, watching as others perish, and also the behaviour of female journalists in spreading the virus is regrettable, female journalists behave very badly and none of them can come out in the open, none has emulated late mildred mpundu

    Kapepula Mwansa - December 4, 2012

  27. First of all i was shocked to read the healines on first page in the media to day on to find that an important statement of re-aligning the Ministry of Health and Community Dev, mother anf Child has been under played by the print media.It is ZNBC which covered it properly.That was the most important thing that happened in this country yesterday.It should have been the headlines in all the papers.But things like Mumba is no longer MMD president or Mumba was searched or Kachingwe has sued is not very important as to the events of yesterday.I dont know the media who they really to please.The people are tired of politics what they want now is development and the health sector is very important because a such thing has never happened before in the history of health care in Zambia.News editors should try balance news even if there interest is politics.

    sifaka litongo - December 4, 2012

  28. Stigma should not be allowed, HIV is like any other disease. Thanks Mr Ngoma.

    Gundown - December 4, 2012

  29. I am living with HIV and working, I have a normal life and i work to serve lives…HIV is manageable and stigma is varnishing.

    joel - December 4, 2012

  30. I remember the times of zambia carrying a story of a Livingstone woman who regretted going public about her positive status. Many more will keep on regretting

    GETTY IMAGES - December 4, 2012

  31. When he wanted to go and see how civilised people live he discovered he was positive, well, keep positive thinking , Their are many out their more especially in PF government who are positive

    papaya - December 4, 2012

  32. We need more people of your courage.

    Let’s fight this stigma fueled by unfettered ignorance by some people. Bravo.

    Koma Kaya Mwee!!!!! - December 4, 2012

  33. I know Enock Ngoma from Livingstone, had no idea he was HIV positive. Soldier on and keep that fire burning my brother!!!!!!!!!

    yeldarb - December 4, 2012

  34. I first met ba Enock when i was a student in India, they had come to Delhi at IIMS. The lord bless you and keep you.

    Elixir - December 4, 2012

  35. Well, just go to the cso and get stats. your friend has put up a figure and the best you can do is give us your figures. to put you in the picture, those who tested in the 90′s but are still alive continue to add to the numbers. and so this number is cumulative not a single wide testing campaign

    Elixir - December 4, 2012

  36. Thanks Enock my Personal Friend. Am very proud of you though I have not seen you in over ten years. I wish you well. Live Positive.

    Bonzo - December 4, 2012

  37. Kgalema or whatever they call you, actually the number is more than that for your little information.
    Everyday people get tested at the antenatal and since the beginning of 1990′s many records are there except you will never see a name because the results are coded and this is to avoid skeptics as well as useless whistle blowers. We are all effected in one way or the other and denying that this scourge is not a pandemic is a grave mistake

    Mzima Alexis - December 4, 2012

  38. touching

    jjjjjjjjjjj - December 4, 2012

  39. Advice to Irish Times. Much as we appreciate your concern for AIDS, please take note that the number of infected Zambians, 2.04 m has not been established. It is an estimate of whoever you are quoting. There’s been no national testing programme in which 2 million Zambians have been diagnosed with HIV. Only less than a quarter of a million Zambians are on treatment. And with 2m Zambians supposedly living with AIDS, one would have expected the population to be shrinking. But its not. There’s AIDS in Zambia. That’s a Fact. But the statistics are not Factual.

    Kgalema - December 4, 2012

    • Coud’nt agree more! Aids infections have in fact falling !In one village where almost everyone has been tested the rate is 0.5%!!!

      Truth Seeker - December 4, 2012

    • Crooked statistics are made by bogus organisations that are trying to milk money from donors using Zambia as a nation with a “big” HIV/AIDS problem. let us not allow them to enrich themselves by defaming our country. it is on the GRZ (through Central Statistics Office ,National AIDS Council and Ministry of Health) who has the mandate to publish official.
      Bravo to the brother who has come out in the open-I encourage you to soldier on

      Kalulu - December 4, 2012

    • Fantastic observation guys.The AIDS issue is exagerated by many people including our own former president Dr keneth Kaunda.Let us not stigmatise our brothers and sisters with the virus but put much pressure on false statistics.

      Victoria Falls - December 4, 2012