My name is Joharia. I am 28 years old, and I was born in Ngara district, Kagera region, Tanzania.
In 2005, I fell in love with a man. Together, we conceived, and I gave birth to a baby boy I named Mecki. He was a married man, but he didn’t disclose his marital status to me.
When Mecki was seven months old, my aunt who lives in Arusha region asked my parents if I could live with her. My parents agreed, and in August 2006, I moved to Arusha together with my son.
Soon after my arrival, I suffered severe stomach pains and was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. I visited the hospital several times, but the infection would not go away. I decided to get tested for HIV.
The results were positive. I was so shocked to learn my status.
I was given a referral to Levolosi Health Centre, a Foundation-supported care and treatment site in Arusha. The clinicians at Levolosi Health Centre were very helpful, and I immediately began treatment to regain my health.
A month after beginning the treatment, my stomach pains ended and I grew healthy. I became more active and began to help out around my aunt’s house again, performing all the household chores.
In August 2008, I began Foundation-led training to become a lay counselor. During a five-day training, I learned about the roles and responsibilities of a counselor, communication skills, HIV/AIDS basic knowledge, stigma and discrimination, and psychosocial counseling.
Since completing my training, I have been working as a lay counsellor at Levolosi Health Centre. Some of my responsibilities include providing supportive peer counselling and health education to HIV-positive clients, educating others on the importance of drug adherence, and finding clients who have missed their appointments.
Mecki is now five-years-old and lives with my parents in Bukoba District, Kagera region. Mecki was tested for HIV, and is negative. I am happy that I am now healthy and able to support my child.
I thank the Foundation for providing me with the care and treatment services and the lay counselor’s training. Their help has enabled me to live a healthier and more productive life.