Rehema's Perspective

Rehema's perspective

Mungushi, Tanzania - My name is Rehema and I am 28 years old. I am unemployed so I have no income. I depend on friends and others who help people like me.

The local HIV/AIDS organization, Kiwakkuki, has been helping me with some food.
My housing problems and the discrimination I experience because of being HIV positive are the biggest challenges I face.

My father died when I was one year old, and my mother did not have money to send me to school. So I was married when I was seventeen.

I was married for five years, but my husband divorced me because I could not have any children. Once you have been married, the woman’s parents receive cattle for their daughter and you are not supposed to go back to your family after this. So I was denied by my own family and by my husband’s family. I had to live on the street.

I wanted to prove that I was able to get pregnant, so I had different partners. I just wanted to find out if it was me or my husband who was infertile. As time went by, I became ill and it got worse day by day. I went to the hospital and they said that I had malaria. But the problems continued and I was transferred to another hospital where they found out that I was HIV positive.

There is a lot of stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.

My family will not help me because of the stigma. I am being treated as an outcast. They won’t share food with me or water with me, because they are afraid of getting infected.

Today I live in a house owned by a woman who tries to help me, and I pay 5,000 shillings per month. But I can only stay here for two months until she returns. Previously my sister-in-law made my brother give me a small piece of his land with a small house on. But one day when she was away, my brother sold the land I was living on and kicked me out of the family.

I am mistreated by the whole community because of this disease.

Because of the the side effects from the ARV medicine, I cannot do any hard work or get a job. If there was more job opportunities then I would not have problems with housing and food. And if I had better education, maybe it would be easier for me to get a job.

My biggest problem is where I am going to live. Where do I go to next? If foreign investors could invest in this area and help create job opportunities it would be very helpful. Then I could get a job and find myself a home and be able to buy food.

It is very hard to take the ARV drugs without having any food in the stomach and when I am worrying about where I am going to live.

I wish that there was a more comprehensive program that would help people in the community to understand HIV and how to fight the disease.

It is possible to remove discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, but it requires action from the community and the government. The first priority is education and therein information and enlightenment about HIV/AIDS.

Based on an interview with Joana Socias in 2010.