September 12, 2011
Erick. (Photo: EGPAF)
My name is Erick and I live in Kilema ward of Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania. I am 48 years old and a secondary school teacher.
In 1998, I became severely ill. I was very sick with fevers, coughing, and headaches, and was admitted at Lugalo Military Hospital. At the time, not much was understood about HIV in Tanzania, so the doctors only treated me for my fever and cough.
Although I was treated several times my health deteriorated. Because I was a bachelor with no one to follow up on my health condition, my relatives in Dar es Salaam advised me to return home and stay closer to my parents. Many of them thought that I was going to die.
After traveling home in late 1998, I was immediately admitted at Kilema Hospital. The doctors did several tests, including tuberculosis screening, which had a positive result. I was also tested for HIV, but the doctors didn’t disclose the HIV results to me.
One day during my hospital stay, I heard one of my doctors telling the other nurses and doctors in English that I was HIV-positive and that they should take precautions while serving me. I was shocked but worked hard to not show any sign of understanding.
At that particular time, HIV treatment was unavailable at Kilema Hospital. I was only given tuberculosis medication.
A week after my admission to Kilema Hospital, my doctors called my father to inform him of my HIV-positive status.
They then discharged me and referred me to Kibong’oto Hospital, a national tuberculosis hospital located in Moshi District of Kilimanjaro region.
When I returned home, I was met with stigma and discrimination from my family members. My father told my relatives to distance themselves from me. I was isolated in my bedroom and my family members couldn’t even touch anything that I touched. I thought that I was going to die soon.
The stigma was so bad that my father wouldn’t even provide me with fare to travel to Kibong’oto Hospital. I had to ask one of my friends to help me instead. After my arrival at the hospital, I tested positive for both HIV and tuberculosis. I was admitted to the hospital and was immediately started on tuberculosis medication but like Kilema Hospital, HIV treatment was unavailable.
My health improved after six months of treatment for tuberculosis. I was discharged and went back home where stigma still plagued me.
In 2000, one of my brothers volunteered to give me money to pay for my treatment, which was expensive, but available, in larger cities like Dar es Salaam. I used the treatment for four months and started to get healthier.
In 2003, a care and treatment centre was started at Kilema Hospital. The program gathered all the HIV-positive clients and we were given some opportunistic infection drugs. We continued attending the clinic until 2004, when we were told that free HIV medication was going to be provided at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), an Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation-supported site. I was given a referral to KCMC, where I started accessing free care and treatment services. In 2007, the Foundation expanded its local support, partnering with Kilema Hospital to provide treatment services.
In 2009, I was trained as a lay counsellor by the Foundation. Today, I work as a counsellor at Kilema Hospital, assisting fellow clients through health education and general health services, and providing administrative support to the care and treatment center.
Following an improved health status, in 2007 I married my wife, Domina, who is also HIV-positive. I met Domina at Kilema Hospital. Domina and I live a very happy life that is full of love.
Many thanks to the Foundation for bringing the care and treatment services to Kilema Hospital. I am confident that the services we receive will help my wife and I live long and productive lives.