As Tanzania's LGBT fear for their lives, HIV will thrive
Updated 3:43 AM ET, Sat December 1, 2018
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(CNN)In one day, everything changed.
One day, she could walk down the street like anyone else. People still stared and often judged but in their own minds -- not out loud.
But before she knew it, she was dodging abuse and stones thrown at her by strangers, as well as familiar faces.
"Since the announcement was made, things got worse," said the 23-year-old trans woman from Tanzania, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her safety.
She was called derogatory names for being trans and one night was slapped by two men who had been following her, but she managed to run home fast enough to prevent further abuse, she says.
"The feeling is unexplainable," she said. She began questioning the world, her life and who she was. "You start thinking, 'what species am I? Where do I belong?' "
The announcement that she says changed her life was made by powerful politician Paul Makonda, regional governor of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. At the end of October, he vowed to set up a task force to round up and arrest people suspected of being gay.
She first identified as a trans woman in 2016, having previously considered herself to be a gay man. "It took courage," she said. "Tanzania is a very religious country."
Although she was "very intelligent" about coming out and about going only to known LGBT-friendly settings, she now feels that things have taken several steps back.
Four weeks ago, she fled her home in Dar es Salaam to go to Kenya's capital, Nairobi, with the help of Kenya-based nongovernmental organization Jinsiangu, which is supported by the International AIDS Alliance and its Rapid Response Fund.
"It was so bad, I had go," she said. The organization gave her transportation and money to relocate and start a new life in Nairobi.
"I'm free here," she said.
'If you know any gays, report them to me'
Makonda's call for all gay people to be reported to him initiated a chain reaction in the country, forcing many into hiding.
Stating that his phone number is widely known, "I am announcing this to every citizen of Dar es Salaam: If you know any gays, report them to me," Makonda said at a news conferenc