HIV AND TANZANIA’S CHILDREN
‘Together we can move a mountain… one stone at a time’.
Anna is 13 years old and is living with HIV. She lives in Moshi Municipality, an area more popularly associated with Mount Kilimanjaro than a life threatening virus.
The 2016 UNAIDS Gap Report estimated that 1.4 million people in Tanzania are living with HIV. This figure alone emphasises the impact of HIV in the country and the threat it continues to pose to its population. However it is even more concerning to think that those 1.4 million people account for 4% of the total number of people living with HIV in the world.
Of those affected by HIV, there are thought to be 91,000 children under the age of fifteen, like Anna. Anna has access to Antiretroviral treatment (ART) which cannot cure the virus, but can try prevent further growth.
As important as ART is, it does not tackle the emotional impact of a HIV diagnosis. Like any child or in fact anyone suffering in such a situation, Anna has experienced feelings of fear and confusion, especially as she did not know how she contracted the virus. She threatened to kill the person who had infected her and denied her a normal childhood.
African Initiatives has partnered with the Tanzania Women Research Foundation (TAWREF), an NGO in Moshi which works to raise the quality of life for Tanzania’s marginalised communities, namely those living with HIV. TAWREF’s research is based upon evidence-based innovative projects, in this instance, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TFCBT). TAWREF has a number of trained interventionists who offer support to children like Anna who have suffered from various forms of trauma. The organisation also provides training for the children’s caregivers to improve their understanding and relationship. The counsellors organised a meeting between Anna and her mother, so Anna’s mother could explain to her daughter how she was infected. Anna learnt that she had been infected through Mother to Child Transmission- which is responsible for nearly a fifth of all HIV infections. Through the help of the counsellors, Anna has had access to the answers she so desperately needed.
Hearing that you have contracted HIV is not news that anyone can ever be expected to come to terms with. With the help of TAWREF, mother and daughter have been able to support each other as they continue to receive treatment.
Tanzania’s government have increased their measures to treat and prevent HIV over recent years, from the promotion of condoms to the provision of ART to pregnant women. But the epidemic has remained constant, due to the continuation of new infections and steady population growth. TAWREF continues to conduct its research based on empirical approaches to childhood trauma and the growing needs of the affected population.
There are thought to currently be 790,000 orphaned children in Tanzania as a result of HIV. A HIV diagnosis does not simply affect the life of an individual, it has an impact on families, friends and the wider community. A donation to African Initiatives will support TAWREF and help treat all those suffering at the hands of the virus.