Venice's Story

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"I found so much courage from the Amref Health Africa counselor and project manager, Mama Agnes, who helped me realize that it wasnít the end of my life and that I could actually live well."

Iíve been working as the Secretary of the Post-Test club in Arusha, Tanzania for the last three years.†† Set up and run by members, Post-Test clubs serve as support groups for people living with HIV/AIDS.†† They are part of Amref Health Africaís Angaza Zaidi program, the largest volunteer testing and counseling service in all of Tanzania.†

Itís one thing to be diagnosed with HIV, but living with AIDS and trying to earn a salary, is very difficult for most people, especially with the continued stigma that still exists in many African countries. †The Post-Test clubs provide supportive counseling to members, create a forum to discuss our health and general life issues, access spiritual and legal support, and sometimes create opportunities for income generating activities.† I had no idea that living with HIV, I could share knowledge and ideas, actually find friends and do some business. †I work with my wife selling clothes and she makes morning snacks that we sell. †I also receive a small stipend for my role as Secretary, but more importantly, I can access a loan from the Post-Test clubís village community bank, or VICOBA as itís called.† We all pitch in money Ė even just a little bit Ė and whoever needs it can take a loan and pay it back when they start to earn more money.† I used my loan to pay for school, which really motivates me to work hard so I can pay it back.†

I found out I was HIV positive in 2000 after my first wife died.† I felt helpless and very desperate at first, but going to the Post-Test club had a huge impact on my life.† I found out so much more about HIV, and how to live with the disease and so far, Iíve been doing well.† Iím on anti-retrovirals and luckily for me, have very little side effects.† In fact, people donít even believe that I am HIV positive because I seem so healthy.† At least thatís what my wife tells me.

Itís difficult sometimes to motivate other men to join the Post-Test clubs Ė women are much more willing than men.† I think men find it too difficult to be open about their condition Ė they try and hide it because theyíre ashamed and donít want to face other peopleís fear and disdain.† But I found so much courage from the Amref Health Africa counselor and project manager, Mama Agnes, who helped me realize that it wasnít the end of my life and that I could actually live well.†† So, Iím trying to be a good ambassador and help other men change their attitude.

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I also work as an Ďexpert patientí at the Post-Test club.† That means I go around to communities and tell my story about living with HIV and try to get other people living with HIV to join as well.† We really help each other here and Iím much happier now than before.† I feel Iím doing a big service to my community and I like being a role model for other people living with HIV.†

What impresses most people about me though is that Iím remarried to an HIV negative woman and we now have three healthy HIV negative children who are nine, seven and three.† Weíre what they call a Ďdiscordant coupleí, one HIV positive person and the other negative, so I talk a lot about how that works as well.

After my first wife died and I came to Arusha, my new wife, Elizabeth and I were neighbors who met at church one day. We found out we were from the same hometown six hours north of here, Singida.†

My wife didnít believe me when I first told her I was HIV positive, because she said I looked so healthy.† I encouraged her to go for a test too and luckily, she was negative. We started spending a lot of time together helping each other out, as her first husband had died.† Slowly we fell in love and decided we wanted to get married† and have children.† But we knew of course that there were risks involved.† She knew she was risking infection, but she believes HIV is not a death sentence. She gets tested every three months.

So we both saw the doctor and he was very clear about how to manage my HIV and told us exactly what to do to keep Elizabeth and our children HIV negative when trying to conceive.

I am so grateful for Elizabeth. I am strong and positive because of her. My life would have been very different without her Ė she is so loving, accepting and helpful.† She truly is my angel.

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Impact


Read the stories of real people who have had their lives changed by Amref Health Africa:
 

 

Esther

 

Nice

 

Elisa

 

Venice

 

Asrat

 

Mary