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A Mother Proves There is Life After HIV

JSI/WEI Photo Library Photo
Tina Pius smiles with her healthy new baby.

Tina Pius was seven months pregnant when she found out that she was HIV positive. She was young and looking forward to welcoming a new baby after her second child had passed away.

Tina, who lives in the Karatu district in Arusha, Northern Tanzania, had gone to the antenatal clinic for a regular check-up on her pregnancy. She was advised to take another HIV test as a follow-on to the negative test result she received three months prior.

“I wept when I heard the positive result,” Tina says. “I was not prepared for it because the first test was negative."

After Tina came to terms with her status, she confronted her husband and ended their marriage. Tina describes this time as the most difficult in her life. She and her young son slept on top of boxes on the floor of a neighbor’s room. To earn money, Tina would walk around town offering to braid women’s hair.

Soon, she had enough regular customers to save money for her child’s birth. Tina also made the important decision to not let her unborn baby get infected with HIV.

In 2012, Tina joined a LIMCA group under the Bantwana Initiative’s Pamoja Tuwalee program. The Livelihoods Improvement for Most Vulnerable Children Care (LIMCA) model goes beyond basic economic empowerment activities such as literacy, numeracy, and business skills. LIMCA encourages group members to engage in self-development initiatives that improve the welfare of Most Vulnerable Children (MVC) and strengthen household incomes of MVC and their caregivers.

Tina became very active in her LIMCA group and learned many new skills. She even received training from Bantwana to become an Economic Empowerment Worker for LIMCA, advocating for child protection and children’s rights. Tina oversaw the formation of two LIMCA groups on Sumawe street. The closeness and friendship of Tina’s LIMCA members led her to form another group for people living with HIV: the Matumaini Group.

“I formed the Matumaini group because I understand that a lot of people living with HIV are ashamed of their status,” says Tina. “All they need is someone who will tell them that being HIV positive is not the end of the world. All they need is someone who understands them…and I understand them perfectly well.”

The Matumaini Group currently has 21 members, and they meet each month when they go to collect antiretroviral drugs at the hospital. During their meetings, they talk about life and existing business opportunities. “The LIMCA HIV group has given our lives new meaning and provided a supportive, loving community,” says Tina.

Tina now has two more healthy, HIV negative daughters and is thriving thanks to the support from LIMCA. The LIMCA initiative has also enabled Tina to take a loan and buy two goats and hens. She is determined to purchase a plot of land and start building a house for her children, and she believes that LIMCA will help her do so.

“I love helping the community,” says Tina. " I will continue convincing people to love themselves and to love children. I want to see Tanzania’s rate of most vulnerable children go down by 80 percent.”