Taking the Stage, and Taking a Stand
Tatu Msangi is an tireless advocate for women living with HIV in her home country of Tanzania , and on Tuesday, June 18, she joined U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo), U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), and Namibian Minister of Health and Social Services Dr. Richard Nehabi Kamwi to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In this blog, Tatu shares her story and why PEPFAR is so meaningful to her.
When I became pregnant with my daughter in 2004, I couldn’t have been more excited. I immediately began making plans for our future, and I visited an antenatal care (ANC) clinic at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) . There, I took an HIV test and discovered that I was HIV-positive. I was stunned, and scared.
My country has fought the AIDS epidemic for 30 years, but in 2004, the challenges we faced seem insurmountable. Almost no one in Tanzania received the antiretroviral medications they needed to stay healthy. Between 1996 and 1999, the number of children who lost both parents to AIDS-related complications doubled. Though millions of people needed to be tested for HIV and receive counseling, there were only 527 testing and counseling sites in the entire country. But thankfully, KCMC – supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) – had the resources I needed.
I began taking medication that kept me healthy and prevented the transmission of HIV to my unborn baby, and I gave birth to my daughter, Faith. She is now eight years old, HIV-negative, and a very happy little girl. Now, I am a registered nurse, and I work at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, providing counseling and support to women living with HIV who, just like me, want to keep themselves healthy and their families safe and HIV-free.
Across Tanzania, millions of women have similar stories. Because of programs like PEPFAR, coverage of services to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies in Tanzania leapt from 10 percent in 2004 to 70 percent in 2010. Ten years after PEPFAR was launched, the one-millionth baby born without HIV will be born this month. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services has saved millions of lives – in Tanzania, and around the world. EGPAF has worked with PEPFAR since the beginning, and is directly responsible for 213,000 of the one million averted infections. I was so proud to be able to share my story – and the stories of so many other women – at Tuesday’s celebration honoring 10 years of PEPFAR.
I know that an AIDS-free generation is possible. I see it every day when I see my daughter, and when I am able to help women at the KCMC get the testing, counseling, and treatment they need. But we must continue the fight. Every mother deserves to have a happy, healthy, HIV-negative child.
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