Farida David Mwakasenga
From fear follower to peer educator
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.”