January 13, 2012
Caroline. (Photo: EGPAF)
My name is Caroline, and I am 46 years old. I live in the Tabora region of Tanzania, where I run a food catering business.
I was married in 1985, and my husband and I were blessed with two children. My firstborn, Maria, was born in 1986, but she died of malaria in 2009. My second child, Astrid, is now 21 years old and works in South Africa.
My husband died in 2002. I suspected that he died of AIDS, although his relatives did not want to disclose his medical information. At that time, there was little knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS in Tanzania, but I was able to find some brochures and posters. I realized that my husband had almost all of the symptoms of AIDS.
In 2003, six months after my husband’s death, I travelled to Dar es Salaam to visit my sister, and while there, I went for an HIV test. The results were positive.
I disclosed my HIV status to my sister. She was extremely upset, but because I had accepted my status, I gave her confidence that I would be okay.
At the time I discovered my status, there was no access to free treatment for HIV in Tanzania. My sister decided to buy me some traditional medicines to treat the virus, but I only took them for six months.
I returned back to my home in Tabora at the end of 2003, and joined a group of HIV-positive people (to create a support group. ). My participation in the group, called The People Living with HIV and AIDS in Tabora (PLATA), gave me the moral support I needed to stay healthy.
I also decided to disclose my status to my community. In the beginning, I faced a lot of stigma and isolation, but through courage and determination, I was able to educate my neighbors about HIV and how to prevent infection. As I shared more about HIV/AIDS, I saw the stigma dissolve.
In 2005, the Tabora regional pharmacist called and informed me that HIV treatment was available for free at Kitete Hospital through the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I received this news with excitement.
I immediately visited Kitete Hospital and was enrolled in the facility’s care and treatment center, which is supported by the Foundation. My health was evaluated and I was given medicine to treat my HIV.
In 2010, I attended a training provided by the Foundation to become a lay counselor. Today, I work at Kitete Hospital, where I help the nurses with administrative and basic health tasks. I also follow up with clients that have missed their care and treatment appointments.
Because of the Foundation I am healthy and able to work. Not only am I able to provide for myself, but because of my health, I am able to help other HIV-positive people in my community receive the care, treatment, and support they need to live healthy, just as I do.