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My first time to hear about HIV / AIDS in Kagera region-Tanzania Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by lutatinisibwa, Tanzania Feb 11, 2008
Health   Short Stories
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Being a Tanzanian young man, born and brought up in Kagera region, I believe to have been among the first few young boys to hear, read, know and being threatened by the newly, invaded killer disease in our country. Its clearly known and believed that, in Tanzania, the first HIV / AIDS victim was found in Kagera region in the year 1983.
As a young boy, I started to be aware of the disease, in the year 1988, when I was about 7 years old. When I started my nursery school in our local church in Bugandika ward in Misenyi district formally called Bukoba vijijini district.

My Christian nursery teacher, the late evangelist William Bakobi, started to feed his class with the occurrence of the disease. Warning that is terrible and when one is infected, it can not be cured and no vaccination for it. It’s a terrible pandemic never witnessed in human history, and that is spreads through sexual intercourse, surgery and wounded bodies.

That was my first day, to officially hear about the pandemic, at the small age. It’s the time when preachers in many churches talked a lot and about it, with bigger voices, proved to be frightened and frightening the mass.

Kagera region’s community, mainly the waHaya people, received the new disease, by naming it several names. At first, it was named Juliana. Juliana, was an old time fashioned ladies clothes (long blinking gown), which meant that it looks smart like the gown but inside, it’s a killer. Later the name changed to the Haya, “bakuntumile” which meant, “I am sent to take you and you have no objection, we have to go”. This name was chosen, after many deaths caused by HIV/AIDS prevailed in the Haya community.
Strange with names especially when naming the new troubles, Kagera residents, adopted the new name to fit the disease. It was now called, “silimu”. Silimu stands for Haya pronunciation for the English word, slim, which means thin, slight and an opposite of the word fat. This was after realising that every HIV patients had to slim before dying.

In the year 1993, when I was a standard four student, our science subject teacher, taught my class about HIV and AIDS. It was my first time to know that; HIV stands for Human immune deficiency syndrome and AIDS stands for, acquired immune deficiency syndrome. These were difficult long form for a village Swahili student to memorise even to mention.

The Swahili word, and easy for village student to mean HIV, was now introduced to us. It was UKIMWI which abbreviates; “Upungufu/ukosefu wa kinga mwilini”. Education was given and to us on how the disease infects and affects. how to avoid it and that, its not easy to identify any one infected by HIV since many of us thought that every thin person, wais infected and fat person was not, something which was wrong.

We read a booklet, on HIV aids, but it did not state clearly the source and where the pandemic originated. That booklet stated that, Tanzanians says it came from Uganda while some Ugandans claim that it came from Tanzania. Moreover, the booklet stated that, according to some Europeans, HIV came from Africa while some Africans claims that it come from Europe.

Local people through different gatherings in our village discussed about the pandemic that its source is Europe where people are making sex with animals. Religious leaders didn’t stop to blame human being for sinning against almighty god who is now angry and has now decided to show his hate to human being, and that the only way was to turn back and re-obey Gods laws even if later some of these religious leaders were lost through the same pandemic. It was at this time when funerals became song of a day. Witch doctors and traditional healers did not loose a chance too. It was at this time, when some of them where infected through various blood contaminations due to their healing practice, in which some used razor blades and other sharp equipments which exposed them to the infected bodies.

The situation was terrible; people were dying like they came to world wrongly. Everyone had to share HIV consequences. It was this time when various phrases and sayings rose among the Haya community. One artist sang that, people a dying like grasses. My grandmother used to say that AIDS is like a punishment.

I remember a story from Mr Nyonyi, from kanyigo ward, a ward which had many deaths and victims compared to other parts of a region, giving a testimony of a family which had 10 children. 7 of them were already dead, while between the remaining three, one is sick and the other 2 seems to keep on getting weaker. The grand mother and grand father had to take care of the family. The new grand children remaining behind had to be taken care of. Some of these grand children were born infected on acquired viruses through breast feeding. There was not any proof on new infection to these kids who had to share the same plates, same clothes and same sharp equipments and utensils like pair of scissors, razor blades and knives.

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Doris Carter | Sep 14th, 2018
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