"Indeed, I believe that it was the end of my life and the beginning of trouble for my children, once I heard that, when somebody is having HIV/AIDS, he/she will no longer live, but here I am. -it's true deceased person awake and buries alive ones" says Sikutegemea
Sikutegemea Odeni is a resident of Mtakuja village, Utengule Usongwe (ward), Mbeya district council (Mbeya DC) in Mbeya region, her age is twenty-six (26) she was born in 10/10/1989 at Mshikamano village-Nsalala in Mbeya District Council, Mbeya, and she has a standard seven education level.
Sikuegemea married in 2004 and divorced in 2006, because of love jealous, so she left her husband and went to Chunya. She got a Job as a bar maid in Mwalejego bar found in Itumbi, due to low wage and the hard life, she started selling herself as sex worker to miners, long truck drivers and travelers. She was having sex with four men per night. Other clients wanted to use condoms and others did not. Sex without condom she charged 30,000/=, sex with condom she charged 15,000/= to 20,000/= so per night she gets not less than Tanzania shillings 50,000/= and above. “I worked as sex worker for not less than 7 years in Chunya district and Mlowo in Mbozi district. “she said.
It came a time when she didn't want to work as a sex worker anymore, as business was very hard and sometimes she was violated and discriminated with her clients "I will live this life as sex worker until when?" she asked herself,
KIHUMBE a local NGO working in HIV prevention in Mbeya Region is the reason for Sikutegemea's revival. The programe is funded by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Walter Reed Program-Tanzania. Sikutegemea is among of Sex Worker who has been targeted for comprehensives package of HIV/AIDS.
She met with KIHUMBE peer educator Neema Steven and got education about Prevention of HIV/AIDS. (provided her with a referral into VCT centers for HIV test),"she took me and went to KIHUMBE for HIV test)" and discovered that she was HIV infected, "the results confused me for 2 to 3 days and I believed that is the end of my life and the beginning of trouble for my children, considering words of people I used to hear that when someone have HIV/AIDS is already dead but afterwards when I continued to be visited by peer educator from KIHUMBE I accepted the situation".
EIGHT years ago she decided to go to the hospital for an HIV test, and ended up sleeping on the hospital benches the whole day without taking the test. In fact, she did that nearly three times, full of fear that her status might be positive and she could end her life. But when she finally got the courage and took the test and did test positive, she became a peer educator – educating other people on how to live, and not end their lives.
Farida David Mwakasenga is the lady in mention, and she found out that she was HIV positive in 2005.
“I was losing weight every day, and my uncle advised me to get tested. I was so hesitant about taking the test and kept on sleeping on the hospital benches for several days, until when a nurse who is our neighbor saw me one day and escorted me to the test,” she says, at her home in Msasani ward, Rungwe district in Mbeya.
The shock that Farida got after being told she tested positive made her not to know what she was doing. Instead of going to the CTC where she was referred to, she went straight home, full of confusion in her head.
“I told my uncle about my results and he encouraged me a lot by telling me that a lot of people are infected, but are still living a healthy life. He encouraged me not to give up and instead to follow the advice given to me so that I could live many more years. He would give me money for my fare to the hospital and for food. His encouragement helped me a lot,” she recalls.
During the time when Farida tested HIV positive, her CD4 count was only 124, and she had 30kgs. After she started using ARVs, her CD4 count started going up, starting with 370 after six months, then 741. Right now, the count is 1,134.
Farida gives her thanks to KIHUMBE, a local NGO dealing with Home Based Care treatment for people living with HIV, with the support from the American people. She joined the group of people living with HIV, and found many other people who were also infected, but living a healthy live. And that is what made her become strong again.
She started saving money within the group and later took a loan that helped her to buy three pigs. The pigs are now growing fast, and she expects that they will start producing piglets in early 2014, and that is when she will get even more benefits from the animals. She is also a volunteer with KIHUMBE and helps in educating people about preventing themselves from getting infected with the virus.
What’s more, Farida has now found new love in her life. “I found a man when I was going to the clinic to get ARVs, and he is also HIV positive. We fell in love and decided to get married. We plan to have a baby that we will protect from getting the virus. It might happen soon, as I was waiting for my CD4 count to go higher,” she says with a smile.
This is what Farida says about her current health: “I have peace of mind. I have had a chance to change my life and I feel very comfortable. Without KIHUMBE’s help, I might have been dead by now.”
FOR those who have studied history in the syllabuses of the Tanzanian education, they have pretty much heard of Kinjekitile Ngwale and the Maji Maji War. The famous Kinjekitile was a witchdoctor in Songea, Ruvuma region, who wanted to help the Ngonis fight the Germans during colonial era, by promising them that the enemy’s bullets will turn into water. What happened after that was a bloody war that led to the deaths of so many Ngonis, since the enemy’s bullets never turned into water.
Ruth Erasto’s story is like the story of Kinjekitile. Her husband and her were very sick, and they believed that they were bewitched. They went to witchdoctors who told them that they were bewitched and they would help cure them. They believed them and sold everything they owned; but in the end, her husband died. That was in 2007. Six years later, Ruth now realizes that the problem was not witchcraft but HIV.
“In the beginning I was naive and did not want to believe that I was infected with HIV, and when people advised me to go for a test I got angry with them because I thought that I could never be infected,” explains Ruth as she narrates her story.
She says that her employer, Mama Mgalla visited her frequently and advised her to get a voluntary test at KIHUMBE, so Ruth was so rude to her because she did not even know the meaning of HIV/AIDS, and believed that only those who were immoral could get infected.
After some time Ruth decided to get a test, and that was when she was found positive. It devastated her, especially remembering the money that she had lost with her husband on witchdoctors who kept assuring them that there was nothing wrong, except for jealous people who wanted to get rid of them.
“Life was difficult after the death of my husband because we had to sell everything so as to help for his treatment. I depended on my neighbors to offer me food and my employer, Mama Mgallah, and that is how I managed to survive with my three children,” she recalls.
Ruth started using ARVs in 2008, during which her CD4 count was only 100, and her body weight was 18kgs. She had to be admitted at the Mbalizi Military Hospital, and slowly started regaining her strength again after some time. Right now her CD 4 count is improving, and she admits that she feels strong and happy, thanks to KIHUMBE and its donors, the American people.
Ruth joined the groups of People Living with HIV at KIHUMBE, and after saving some money she managed to borrow an amount that helped her buy two ducks, a goat, a pig, a rabbit and a dove. She also used part of the money to add capital towards her small business of selling household food, something that she had started doing three years earlier. With the profits she gains in her business, the courageous woman has been able to take care of her children, including paying for their school necessities.
“Before joining KIHUMBE I was deteriorating. I thought I would die any time, and I know that I would have never survived,” she explains, adding: “I have nothing to repay them other than to say thank you for their support and efforts into making me who I am now.”
Ruth is happier than before. She is thankful for having the opportunity to live again, and she is thankful for being able to help herself and her family. For sure, her eyes have been open and she will never be cheated on by the witchdoctors ever again. And we congratulate her.
IN a crowded pub in the middle of the city, people laugh loudly as they enjoy their drinks. They seem to enjoy themselves as they chat through the night. As they continue, the barman suddenly makes an announcement: There is a lady who wants to speak with them and seeks their attention. The crowd listens as the lady approaches the front and makes her case…
Niganile Kilema is a well-known person in the pubs of Mbeya City. She works for KIHUMBE, a local NGO dealing with prevention of HIV/AIDS with the support from the American people. She talks to people, educates them on how to prevent themselves from getting infected, and even goes beyond her duties by giving them a hand in whatever they might need.
“When I was educating men about the important of circumcision, they were very hesitant about it because they believed that the foreskin that is removed is used for either witchcraft during building the roads, or even cooked and sold as a delicacy,” she explains. But in order to help them get those beliefs out of their heads, she had to do something about it.
“I decided to go with a group of men to the Mbeya referral hospital and the doctor there showed them how the foreskin is being burnt after circumcision. At least that made them believe in the process, and many of them are now circumcised,” she says.
Niganile has a day job with KIHUMBE, which involves her spending the whole day in a moving gazebo, where a lot of people visit and ask questions about HIV and prevention. But she is well known for her efforts of doing more than just her day job, since as soon as she leaves work at 4.40pm, she goes to places where she is sure to find lots of people.
“That is why I visit pubs, markets, meeting areas and places like that. I find people there, speak with them about preventing themselves from being infected, including male circumcision, and even escort those who want to be circumcised but are afraid of going alone,” she explains.
Niganile says that she loves her job because it gives her a chance to interact with a lot of people, especially youth, as she does not want them to get infected by HIV. She believes that she has contributed to making a difference in the society since more and more people are aware of the pandemic.
“Even my parents are proud of me and my job,” she says. “People come to our home and ask for me, and my parents are very supportive in accommodating them even when I am not there. A lot of people come back and thank me for the knowledge I have imparted to them, and it makes me love this job even more.”
For Niganile, the fight against HIV is a serious battle. Mbeya has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country, and she wants to be part of history in making sure that this percentage goes down. And with the way she is going, she will surely be in the history books as one of the city’s heroes.
Walking with his head held high, courtesy to the program
ALONG the dusty streets of Mbeya Rural, the sun is burning as the cattle are looking for grass in the fields. As the street gets bumpier, the environment gets livelier and leads to a house in the middle of the village of Simboya. In front of the house is a big sign with the words: “Condoms are found here, and they are free of charge.”
Daudi Lings Ulaya is the proud owner of that house. He is a man who prides himself of being part of saving his community by educating them on how to stop the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. His education also takes him further by adding another responsibility to his task: That of distributing condoms to those in needs. And what is more, Daudi is living with HIV.
“I confirmed I was HIV positive in 2010 after deciding to get tested. But this was after a long time of delaying, as I suspect that I was infected since 2007 after my health deteriorating,” explains Daudi, adding: “During that time I was living in denial, telling myself that I must have been bewitched.”
Daudi is a 56 year old man who is very open about his status, saying that by talking about it, he knows he is helping a lot of people. As he narrates his story, he makes sure that his whole family is there to listen to him. These include eight of his ten children, his two wives and his younger brother who is also the Simboya village chairman.
Living in Simboya village, located in Ikukwa ward in Mbeya Rural, the old man has now dedicated his life into talking about HIV/AIDS, how the virus spreads and how to avoid getting infected. He does his tasks as a volunteer for KIHUMBE, a local NGO dealing with Prevention of HIV/AIDS, with funding from the American People.
“When I was told that I was HIV positive I was very devastated, despite suspecting it for some time. My heart beats ran very fast and I thought that was the end of me,” he says. But after receiving counseling, Daudi made the decision to be open about it, and the first place he went to was to the street chairman.
“I wanted him to be the witness as I gathered my family and told them that I was infected with HIV. I did not want it to be a secret,” he says. And that is exactly what he did. He gathered his whole family and broke the news to them. And with that news, the one who was worried the most was his second wife, Nsia Daudi.
“The first thought that came into my mind was that I might also be infected,” says the charming woman. “So I decided to go get tested, and when my results came back negative, I did not believe it. I took the test again two more times and it was confirmed that I was not infected.”
The first wife, Maria Daudi also went to get tested and was also proven not to be infected by the virus.
“Joining KIHUMBE as a Peer Educator has really helped me. The education that I have received has made me learn a lot of things, including how to protect my wives from getting infected. I will make sure that I protect them, as well as the whole village,” explains Daudi, adding: “The whole village knows about me. I go to funerals and ask for a chance to talk to the people there about HIV. I go to village meetings and talk about how to protect yourself from the virus. I go to pubs and talk about how to live healthy. And they come to my house and get the free condoms,” he says, laughing proudly.
Daudi has no plans of giving up soon. He is a determined man who is expecting to live twenty more years, knowing that the virus will not let him down. For him, his duty is to save his society, and he will continue to do it with his head held high.