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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

TweetThis! Edina Chungu - Anaishi (na kuwasaidia wengine) kukabiliana na UKIMWI

Ukiweza, fungua macho utizame video ambapo utawaona waimbaji watakaokutega sikio lako kwa sauti zenye mvuto na mpangilio mzuri wa maneno huku wakikupa ujumbe wa kutafakari.

Yafuatayo ni mahojiano kati ya bi Edina na By Ondrej Horecky kama yalivyochapishwa katika ukurasa wa tovuti ya Epoch Times.
Photo: Edina Chungu from Mahango Village, Tanzania, helps herself and other people to live with HIV. (Ondrej Horecky/The Epoch Times)
MAHANGO, Tanzania—Edina Chungu is forty three years old. Though she looks strong and healthy, for two decades now she has fought a battle with an incurable illness.

The number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa with HIV is frightening. In the southwestern region of Tanzania, where Edina lives, official statistics tell of 15 percent of the population being infected. It could be more or less, because statistics around here can be unreliable.

Whatever the case, everyone in the country has met with HIV/AIDS, either directly or indirectly. Victims are not the only ones who suffer from the illness, but also the orphans left behind after their parents die, and bereaved friends and relatives. In the Mahango village where Edina lives, there are around 90 afflicted. They are usually cared for by other family members or their friends.

Having HIV doesn't mean simply waiting for the death to come, though. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good diet, and with the help of antiretroviral drugs, it is possible to prolong the life of a patient to more than 20 years. Edina herself is proof that this approach works. She has been struggling through the illness, and at the same time helping peers to know about these possibilities.

Edina founded a group called Tupendane (which could be translated as "Let's like one another"), consisting of several dozen people from neighboring villages. Their goal is economic development and mutual assistance. Their first successfull project was building a henhouse and selling eggs. Edina also sings in a choir of infected women, singing about their experiences with HIV, as well as folk songs from their village. Their dream is to release a CD.

An Epoch Times reporter visited Edina at her village, conducting the following interview:

Edina, when and how did you get HIV?
It was around 1986. I led a very wild life back then. I worked in the county town in the local bar, where we cooked and sold homemade beer. It was a bad place and I also became an alcoholic there.

You mentioned 1986. But at that time, you didn’t yet know about an illness with the name of HIV or AIDS, did you?
That's right, HIV was unknown back then. It's my guess [that she got it then], since I remember I was always ill from that time on, suffering from headaches and fever.

What was your reaction when you learned that you were HIV positive, with all the possible consequences?
At first I was in shock, desolated. But thanks to a local support group called BHP, the wish to live came back to me. I decided to quit drinking. They told me that being infected with HIV doesn't mean that I am finished, and they educated me about how to deal with the situation. In 2004, the BHP organisation sent us to the county town of Mbeya, where we can get antiretroviral drugs for free in the newly established Care and Treatment Centre. I was one of the first patients who received the medicine. I‘ve taken it ever since, every 8 hours. I travel to the city once a month to get it. I also go for a regular health check every six months.

Do you have a special diet?
I eat similar foods to other people here. Maybe a little more vegetables and milk.

How did your family respond to your illness? Do you have kids?
I don't have kids. When my family learned that I had HIV, the reaction was negative. They didn't want me, saying that I was bad. They refused to deal with me and they also had fear. They were afraid to sit at the same table with me, use the same toilet, lend clothes to me, lend me a hand or sleep in the same room. But this changed later on. I managed to explain to them that they don't have to fear me. Now we are back together like we used to be.

What do you do for a living?
Now I teach people about HIV/AIDS. After I learned about my diagnosis, I changed my lifestyle a try to help other people with HIV.

Traveling through the villages, I give lectures and encourage people to undergo tests and not fear that they will be detected with HIV—if they discover it early enough and take medicine, they can live much longer. I use myself as an example. I also teach ill people that they should stop their sexual life and not look for new partners, in order to stop spreading the illness. We also have a choir with other girls here, so we can raise the awareness about HIV/AIDS with our songs.
Has the attitude towards people with HIV changed in Tanzania?

A few years back, talking about HIV/AIDS was a taboo here, and if someone was known to have been infected, he or she was expelled from the community. Some people thought that the illness could be transferred by touch, by eating together, or by useing the same toilet. But this mentality is already changing as we continually explain to people what HIV is about.

Do you regret your past behaviour?
I don't want to hear about what I did in the past. I regret it very much. I have felt ashamed about that and hated myself. But now I am strong!

What are your plans for the future?
The first one is to learn English, so I can do this work better. I also want to be a very good teacher on HIV. Another plan is to adopt some children who are orphans, and be a good mother to them.

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