Mwajabu and her daughter getting water. Thanks to Compassion's intervention, Mwajabu has great hope for her daughter's future.
Mwajabu was like any other young mother in her village, or so she thought. She was born in a village on the coast of Tanzania, and in 1994, at the age of 24, was married. She and her husband had three children. But in 2005 her husband of 11 years died suddenly at age 45, and Mwajabu's life took a terrible turn.
Her husband's medical history showed he was diabetic, and so the community believed he died from diabetes complications. Then Mwajabu discovered new information.
Shortly after the death of her husband, Mwajabu suffered a mild stroke because of the trauma from his death. She never fully recovered from her stroke and began to experience pains. She also battled a skin inflammation disease, much like what people who have HIV or AIDS experience. Mwajabu consulted the family doctor, who advised her to get an AIDS test.
The results confirmed the worst. She had AIDS.
Solving a Mystery
This puzzled Mwajabu greatly because she was faithful to her husband and she had not been involved in any care for people with HIV or AIDS.
"Although my husband was diabetic, I was used to this situation, and he would regularly use his medicine," she says. "As far as I am concerned, he was out of danger zone. When I got my health result stating that I have AIDS, I became more curious to know from the hospital exactly what disease killed my husband."
A hospital report confirmed her worst fear. Her husband had actually died of AIDS.
"I realized that my husband knew exactly what he was suffering from, but did not reveal that to me," Mwajabu says.
Mwajabu's sad discovery revealed the problem that still affects her society and complicates the fight against HIV and AIDS. Her husband could not reveal his AIDS status for fear of tarnishing his image in the community. He did not even reveal his status to his wife because he had betrayed his marriage by having an extramarital affair, which brought AIDS home.
"After the picture unfolded to me, I had to accept the situation. I knew I had life to live on and kids to look after. And because my (daughter) was also falling sick from time to time, and with no permanent recovery, I decided to take her in for HIV testing. She was also diagnosed as HIV-positive," Mwajabu says, tears flowing down her cheek.
When life looked dim, Compassion's Complementary Interventions program stepped in.
"Since my child was registered with Compassion in 2008, we were encouraged to let our children, and ourselves as parents, go for voluntary testing," Mwajabu says. "Since I already knew my status and that of my child, I just handed our HIV/AIDS status certificate to the Compassion center, and we were put in the list of HIV/AIDS beneficiaries. Registering my child in the Compassion project was indeed a great relief and a blessing to me."
A Lifesaving Intervention
Now Compassion makes sure Mwajabu receives the support she needs so she can take care of her children. The Compassion center identified a health center where she could receive medical attention and collect her monthly medicines.
Although Compassion is helping with HIV/AIDS support, Mwajabu says her community still has a general misunderstanding about HIV and AIDS.
"Even if there is much awareness about HIV/AIDS, still there is high level of stigmatization in the society against the people with the disease," she says. "People just decide to keep quiet instead of declaring their status because of the fear of what will happen to them.
"This may increase the problem if the person is unfaithful and intentionally decides to spread the disease among the community. In general, the community tends to separate/disassociate with a person with HIV/AIDS because they fear they may be infected with AIDS. This shows there is still lack of enough knowledge on how AIDS is spread."
Mwajabu is thankful that through Compassion they have received not only counseling, but also food support like maize flour, cooking oil, soya beans, milk and eggs.
"The food support is the greatest help we cherish from Compassion. It would have been very difficult to be able to maintain the food needed as we take the medicine, because we have to take the medicine at regular intervals and after we have eaten some food," Mwajabu says. "This is sometimes difficult because we don't have enough income, and we cannot always work to earn a living. Compassion has come to our help at a time like this; otherwise our situation would have been very difficult."
Although Mwajabu freely shared her story, she has not revealed her AIDS status to her child. She feels that she is still very young, and this could jeopardize her daughter's social freedom in the community should the truth be known.
"The time will come for her to know, when she is older and can handle the situation. Right now she plays and associates with other children as usual," Mwajabu says.
Her daughter's life has been greatly affected by the support she receives from Compassion. She has learned to lend a helping hand to her mother, like collecting water from a nearby public tap as the family home does not have running water.
Mwajabu says her hope has been restored, and she now knows she can live to support her children in whatever way is needed.
"I am thankful to the people who make the intervention possible, and I would ask God to bless them. When I look at my daughter, who wants to be a teacher, I see there is hope. I hope she will be able to get the education, which I myself missed in life, and that she will be able to realize her life dream."
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