Sheila (not her real name), a 35 year old transgender woman, left Mozambique to find work in South Africa after being told working conditions were better. In South Africa, because of her gender identity she could not find work and turned to sex work to survive: “What was most difficult for me about this work was that sometimes I had to subject myself to having sex without wearing a condom because the clients said they would pay more if I didn’t wear a condom and at that time I had no information on what not wearing a condom was, all I was thinking about was money, I wanted money, I didn’t know the risks I would be running.” One of her clients offered her a place to stay to stop doing sex work, however she found herself trapped in a physically abusive relationship: “I suffered a lot of violence, physical, verbal and psychological because if I said anything he would say ‘don’t forget what I took you away from, don’t forget where you came from you must always remember what I took you away from.’” After one year she returned to Mozambique where she learned she was HIV positive. Now Sheila is a activist educating other transgender women about how to be safe and how to live with HIV. Mozambique. 21 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Shiela/


“I stayed there with this man not being able to leave the house, not even to visit friends because he said I would go back to prostituting myself. I suffered physical violence, verbal and psychological abuse for one year.”

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Pepetsa is a 23 year old transgender woman and a sex worker. She came out as gay while in school and as a result faced discrimination from her community. Now as a trans woman, it is difficult for her to find work and she, like many transgender women, does sex work to survive placing her at a greater risk of contracting HIV: “I'm really, really afraid of HIV, but because of the money I get and the difficult access to jobs… to the work and employment, right? I have to expose myself and run risks. I have to fight this fear.” Maputo, Mozambique. 19 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Pepetsa/


“I suffered a lot of bias at work because of my sexual orientation I have faced many challenges, and one of the worst challenges is access to health care services for being a trans woman.”

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When 20 year old Gilberto was asked by members of his church if he was gay, he said yes. “They told me to stop singing because God is against it. And if God is against it, they are against too. It was very sad.” A week later he returned to church, but the pastor called him: “He told me that I had the evil spirit of homosexuality. They tried to shape my mind. They said I had to go there every Monday at 10 o'clock for advice, so that it would leave me, because that was an evil spirit.” As well as removing the ‘evil spirit’ the church tried to isolate him form the LGBT community by destroying his SIM card. As much as he loved the church, in the end he left realizing they would never accept his sexuality. Maputo, Mozambique. 15 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Gilberto/


“And another episode was when in my church found out that I’m gay. They told me to stop singing because God is against it. And if God is against it, they are against too. It was very sad.”

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40 year old Daniel was afraid to come out to his family, fearing he would be ostracized, however when he did he learned he was one of the lucky ones, his mother accepted him. “Thanks to my mother, I live freely without bias to my orientation. Today I can say, I'm happy.” Maputo, Mozambique. 14 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Daniel/


“It took me a long time to admit to it to the family because of my fear to their reaction. I went through various psychological therapies, one of which was remarkable.”

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Claudia (left), a 24 year old lesbian woman, and Jo (right), a 31 year old transgender man, have been in a relationship for over five years. Jo explains what happened when Claudia’s mother discovered their relationship: “she was expelled from the house and I had to take responsibility and take Claudia to live with me at my parents' house.” Jo’s family took in Claudia, two weeks later her family began to soften. Jo says: “Claudia's mother asked her to come back home and expressed an interest in getting to know my family, this is what happened in the same year. From that period until here, both her family and my family, our relationship is being respected by all of them.” Mozambique, Maputo. 22 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Jo & Claudia/


“Our relationship, likes several others consisted of ups and downs. But in our case it was because we were a lesbian couple. A negative episode that remarked us and determined the history of our relationship all began when Claudia’s mother discovered that her daughter was dating a person of the same sex.”

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When Jennifer, a 26 year old transgender woman, returned to her mother’s home after living on the streets, her mother told her to get tested for HIV. “My mother told me that I had to take a test at the time. I did not take it very seriously, but I knew that I got involved with people infected, who I had sex with ...those people using no protection.” Jennifer tested positive for HIV, but she could not tell her mother: “I was ashamed of it all at that time I was going to get more medication then I gave up on medication. I stayed like that some more time. It was always that thing into me I always had a doubt, as if I was not well.” She explained why she stopped: “I was afraid and ashamed that one day somebody would discover that I was HIV-positive.” Off her medication, Jennifer became very ill and had to be hospitalized: “During the two months I was ill, I was hospitalized, I lost my life expectancy. I thought I was really going to die. I did not even have some hope.” From near death, she made a remarkable recovery. She now takes her medication regularly. Maputo, Mozambique. 23 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Jennifer/


“After taking the test, the test was positive. And when it was positive, I came back home and I did not tell anybody about it. My mother asked, and I always said ‘ahh I have not done it yet’ but I was already taking medication. So I was ashamed of it all at that time I was going to get more medication then I gave up on medication.”

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26 year old Frank Lileza came out to his grandmother when he was eight years old. He recognizes how fortunate he has been to have a family that accepts his sexuality. Many from the Mozambican LGBTQI+ community are ostracized by their families. Wider society has not been as accepting: “I am a homosexual man, but all the time I was kind of having some girls' style, like the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I express myself. And people would notice that. People were actually saying some very ugly names because the way I was expressing myself, the way I was standing myself in being in this environment.” Maputo, Mozambique. 15 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Frank/


“I have a very supportive family in terms of accepting the way I was different by them. That was the very beginning because my family and friends, they wanted to know who I am”

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Avelino is a 24 year old bisexual and a traditional healer. When he was 22 years old he discovered he is HIV positive: “I caught HIV because I had several multiple relationships without prevention. They were in the amusements, in the night outs, in the nightclubs. Once in a while I had sex with people I did not even know. I caught HIV, I did not know what was that of having prevention.” Mozambique. 23 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Avelino/


When I was 22 years old I found out that I am seropositive, I have HIV. It was a scare, I did not expect it.

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23 year old Avelino (sitting) & 25 year old Neston (lying) are a gay couple. Neston’s family did not approve of his homosexuality. Avelino, byt contrast, when he cam out to his mother, she accepted him. Avelino recalls when Neston had a fight with his family, “‘Why don't you come and live with me,” Avelino said, “let's live together in my house’ and he asked ‘Are you serious?’ and, because of what my mother had told me before, I said ‘Yes’.” Avelino’s mother welcomed Neston, but his father did not know about his son’s sexuality at the time: “It was a huge shock when he found out, we had already been going out for about 6 months when he (his father) found out exactly what we meant to each other. It was such a big shock that we spent about 2 days out in the street… The whole family here had a meeting, in a weird way, a big confusion and everyone, brothers, nephews, everyone revolted against my father ‘He is everything, he works hard in school, he works hard in athletics... What difference does it make?’ I still get emotional when I remember that my father sat with us, apologized and asked him [Neston] to live with us.” But not everyone has been so accepting. When a photo of Avelino and Neston kissing was posted on facebook, Avelino, an international track athlete, lost his spot on the team: “They were made aware of my sexual orientation, they stopped summoning me for international competitions… To let go of the Mozambican Athletics Federation in order to live what I am, who we are... I do not regret anything, if I had to go back in time and do something different, I would not do anything different, I would do everything the same.” Maputo, Mozambique. 22 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Avelino & Neston/


We are a gay couple, we are a couple together for almost 4 years, like a common couple we have gone through many problems, but love has always spoken louder.

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