‘I don’t want to die…my daughter needs me’

“My second daughter had for a long time been sick with recurrent fever, swelling of the lymph glands and general malaise. This affected her studies as she was frequently absent from school. I didn’t know what to do. I had never thought of testing her for HIV, but I thank TUNAJALI Programme, which is supported by the American people, for helping me identify the problem,” says Veronica Msigwa (31), a widow and mother of two girls aged 13 and 10 years.
Working in partnership with regional and district education and health officials, TUNAJALI organised a health checkup campaign to commemorate Day of the African Child (DAC). A total of 6,192 schoolchildren from areas with high HIV prevalence in Njombe Region were involved in the initiative and 4,928 were screened for HIV. Forty children (0.8%), including Veronica’s daughter, Magdalena, tested positive for the virus.
As a follow up, the TUNAJALI Comprehensive and Sustainable Clinical and Community HIV/AIDS Services programme, supported by PEPFAR through USAID, visited Veronica’s home and counselled and tested them. Veronica also tested HIV-positive. She was immediately referred to a care and treatment centre (CTC) for CD4 testing, and was put on ARVs as her CD4 count was low at 153.
“Knowing the harm the virus can cause me and my family, I will adhere to the prescribed treatment regimen. My daughter is going to be my treatment buddy just as I will be hers when she starts treatment. I now have a renewed interest in living and, of course, my daughter needs me. I have to ensure that she realises her dream of becoming a nurse,” says a smiling Veronica, who was weak and frequently caught opportunistic infections before she was tested and put on ARVs. Magdalena is not yet on ARVs because her CD4 count is good at 503.
Launching the DAC campaign, the Njombe Regional Education Officer, Mr. Saidi Nyasiro, said: “Having health checkups regularly is very important because it enables children and their parents to know their HIV status. If someone is infected, they will be monitored and, if the need arises, start using life-saving drugs that will enable them to live positively and happily.”
The Njombe Regional Medical Officer, Dr. Thomas Lujuo, commended the TUNAJALI initiative and called for its expansion to cover all schools in the region. “Through this initiative, we will greatly increase the number of children getting HIV care and treatment. It will also help us provide holistic care and treatment to affected households and families,” he said.
TUNAJALI Programme supports the provision of facility-based clinical HIV care and treatment, community home-based care and support as well as Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) in all districts of Dodoma, Iringa, Morogoro, Njombe and Singida regions.