Tatu and Faith: Tanzania

James Pursey/EGPAF

My name is Tatu and I am 37 years old. I am an HIV counselor at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) in Tanzania. I am also studying to obtain a bachelor’s degree in science and nursing.

I am not sure when I contracted HIV. When I became pregnant in 2004, I went to the ANC at KCMC. I was given a blood test and discovered that I was HIV-positive. I was very shocked when I learned my HIV status and I felt scared for my health and the health of my baby. But the counselors at KCMC’s PMTCT clinic, which EGPAF supports, gave me hope. They told me there were things I could do to prevent my baby from contracting HIV.

I took medication during my pregnancy to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to my baby. I delivered my daughter, who I named Faith, through cesarean section and she also received treatment after she was born. I am lucky to have access to clean water so I could feed Faith with formula rather than breastfeeding her. This further reduced her risk of contracting HIV.

Faith is now six years old and she is HIV-negative. She is a happy, healthy child and my health is also good.

I am so glad to be working at KCMC, where I counsel women who are going through what I went through and encourage them to participate in the PMTCT program. Even after 13 years there, I still enjoy my involvement at the clinic. I feel like I have so much to offer. I see how scared many of the clients are when they first arrive. I hold their hands and tell them it will be okay as long as they learn about HIV and take care of themselves and their families. I tell them my own story to reassure them.

With our help, HIV-positive pregnant women can give birth to HIV-negative children. That’s a fact—Faith and I are proof. When the first HIV test is carried out on a baby and it is negative, you see the relief and joy on the mother’s face. That’s when you know that you have been part of something worthwhile.

If you are a pregnant woman and think you are at risk from HIV, come straightaway to talk to us and learn about the helpful services we can offer. If you are HIV-positive we can’t cure you, but we can show you how to live a normal, healthy life with HIV and how to protect your unborn child. But the longer you leave it, the less help we can offer.

In my view, one of the biggest challenges in the fight against HIV is male attitudes. As women, girlfriends, wives, and mothers, we have to keep trying to encourage men to come to their senses and learn about HIV. Once a man gets involved with his partner in the PMTCT process, it makes a big difference—not just to that man but to the men around him. Men will listen to another HIV-positive man more than they will a woman. That’s our culture.

Faith and I have a bright future ahead of us. I am grateful to EGPAF for everything it has done for me, my daughter, and all the other women and children who need help to save their lives.

From Faith:

I am six years old. For my last birthday Mama gave me a nice dress. I enjoy school—I like to see my two best friends there, Victoria and Haika. I go to school to play, study, and work. Mama says I have to work hard so I do. English is my best subject.

In the evenings when I get home, I eat some food, wash my socks, and then I do my homework. When I finish all my work and chores I can go outside with other children or play with my kitten Fanta.

Tatu and Faith live with their family in Northern Tanzania. Tatu speaks regularly at Foundation events and participated in AIDS Walk Africa 2007.