Yesterday, we visited a HIV+ woman in Arusha. Her story was heartbreaking and worth sharing:
When her husband was dying of cancer accompanied by AIDS, she found out she was also HIV+. Upon sharing this news, her family and her husband’s family rejected her and her children and she was instantly on her own. This is a common attitude towards those infected in Tanzania. She had two children in secondary school and two young children, who are all lucky enough to not be infected. She moved to a small one-room apartment and her neighbors were soon aware of her condition. Although there is no risk of spreading HIV from using the toilet or taking a shower, when she would leave the community bathroom, the other residents would run in and mop the entire bathroom before anyone else could use it. So she decided to take this burden upon herself and now she mops the bathroom every time she uses it to avoid any problems even though she knows there is no danger of spreading the virus. The lack of education about HIV/AIDS creates this crippling stigma and HIV+ Tanzanians suffer. She decided to tell one of her older children, who had a negative reaction and now lives in Dar es Salaam with little contact. She is afraid of her other three children reacting the same way, so she keeps it a secret and must sneak around to support groups and the hospital to get her medication and any medical assistance. However, Global Service Corp has trained her as an HIV/AIDS educator and she occasionally takes her children to other GSC trainings in order to educate them about HIV prevention, while still hiding her status.
Darby, O., Tanzania Semester Program