Danny – An Interview with Danny Lungu

Photography and photostory production by Anayawa Sililo

Anayawa Sililo of Women for Change, a gender and human rights Non-Governmental Organisation in Zambia met up with Danny Lungu to talk about his life since becoming infected with HIV:

Life is not easy when you have a crisis of encountering a challenge of living with HIV/AIDS because it is the ultimate individual transformation.

Meet Danny Lungu born on 22nd October 1962 in Lusaka, Zambia. In a country where one out of every four people is infected with HIV and Danny is one of those Zambians living with HIV/AIDS.
He does not know when he got infected but he suspects that it is in the early 1990s because he had lost weight and had persistent rashes, which is a common symptom among people living with the virus.

From 1997 to 1999 he used go to the hospital because he was always having chest pains.In 2000 he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis (TB) and was put on medication. During this time Danny lost a lot of weight. Although he recovered from the TB he did get back to his normal weight.

From 2001 to 2003 he developed a relapse of the TB and was so weak he was unable to walk for a long distances. During this time Danny experience a variety of symptoms and illnesses including severe haemorrhoids, whenever he coughed he would lose his voice, he had severe chest pains and his weight declined from 95 Kilograms to 40 kilograms.

Danny did not just experience health problems. In September 2001 his partner died during childbirth and the baby died 2 months later. In August 2003 he lost two brothers, a sister and a sister-in -law in a period of two months – all these people had been taking care of Danny. He suspects that their illnesses where HIV/AIDS related.

Despite having been ill for a long time, Danny always refused to go for a HIV test until April 2003 when he visited a Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centre to be tested. The Counsellor told him that he is HIV positive and he reacted by hugging the counsellor and asked her what he should do because he still wanted to live.
He went home and told his relatives that he is HIV positive. “At this time my haemoglobin was 5 and my CD4 count was 21 and I was bedridden for over a month.” said Danny
The hospital management bought Anti-Retroviral drugs for Danny, which he kept for week before taking them because he was waiting for a pastor to bless the medication.

A week after Danny began the medication the medical staff were pleased with his progress.  He had recovered very well and had gained much weight. Two months later he had substantially recovered and was able to report back for work.

One of the major challenges that Danny experienced in disclosing his HIV status was stigma and discrimination from his community. One example is when Danny received an award for Labour Day celebrations : a blanket. One of his colleagues confessed that they had bought the blanket because they thought he was going to die and he could use it in his coffin.

In 2004, Danny along with other individuals that were HIV positive set up a Non-governmental Organisation to support each other as people living with virus and to fight stigma.

Danny’s advises that, “HIV is real and I have been through painful experiences and one can say no to sex”. He educates people about HIV/AIDS mostly in work places and at times when he tells them about his experiences some people cry. Danny works in the hospital catering dept is always counselling and talking to patients about HIV/AIDS.

Danny is a Psycho-Social Counsellor and during one of the counselling sessions he saw a woman that he was immediately interested in. The counselling ethics do not allow counselling someone when you have an interest but he later got to know that she was looking for a support group to join. They dated for two years and on 31st December they decided to marry.