Many people think that contracting HIV is the end of life. I am against this myth. I have HIV and I live a very happy and productive life.
My name is Tina. I am 30 years old. I live in Karatu District in the Arusha Region of Tanzania. In 2000, my husband and I got married. A year into our marriage I delivered my first child, a baby boy we named Arnold. We were a very happy family. Little did I know, everything would change for us.
Seven years later, I discovered that my husband was cheating on me with another woman. To make matters worse, the woman began telling people in our community that she had infected my husband and me with HIV. I asked my husband about the rumors. Were they true? Were we infected? Instead of answering, he left Arnold and me, abandoning us at a time when we were so uncertain about our future.
Soon after the terrible news and my husband’s departure, I realized that I was pregnant. I began visiting an ANC at Karatu Health Center. The nurses at the clinic advised me to test for HIV, and at five months pregnant I finally agreed to take the test. The result was positive. The fear of bearing a sick child overwhelmed me. I was shocked, scared, and alone.
I am so thankful to the counselor at the clinic. She comforted me and gave me hope about my future and the future of my unborn child. She helped me accept my status and introduced me to lifesaving PMTCT services.
The clinic offered the PMTCT services free of charge, so I immediately enrolled in the prevention program. I adhered to all of the recommendations given by the nurses and counselors. The counselors’ support, and the prevention services I received, helped me to safely deliver my baby, a boy named Joshua. After delivery, Joshua was also given medicine to further prevent HIV infection. I decided to exclusively breastfeed him for four months only, as recommended by the clinic.
When Joshua was two months old I took him back to the clinic for HIV testing. The results were negative. I repeated the test when he was six months old and he was negative once again. Joshua is now three years old and healthy. Arnold is 10, and also healthy and HIV-free.
A year and a half ago I remarried. My husband’s name is Jafari and he is 25 years old. He supports our family by working at a car wash. Jafari is HIV-negative; he has been tested three times. We play very safe. I have taught him about HIV and now we are both aware. It shows that a couple can live life normally, even if one partner is infected with HIV.
Nine months ago Jafari and I had a baby girl named Miriam. We followed the PMTCT program, just as I did with Joshua. Miriam has been tested for HIV twice—once when he was one month old and once at four months—through the clinic’s EID program. Both tests were negative.
I now work as a counselor at Karatu Health Center. When I arrived here, the first thing I did was tell everyone face-to-face about my status and inform them that I am a counselor so I am educated on HIV. No one blinked an eye, and in fact they were very happy to have me and my knowledge around. I now counsel a few people at the clinic.
Photos: James Pursey
There is a good HIV support group in Karatu. It is called the Upendo na Matumaini Psychosocial Support Group. Upendo na Matumaini means Love and Hope. About 20 people are involved, 10 men and 10 women. Not everyone is HIV-positive. This is good because when we do HIV sensitization in communities, the audience is reassured to know that HIV-negative people are not scared to be with us. My husband is one of the men involved in the group.
Because of the support we received at Karatu Health Center I believe that my family and I will live long, healthy lives. I am so grateful to have three HIV-negative children, a supportive husband, and a happy life.