Firstly, I would like to thank the Community of Saint Egidio for giving me this opportunity to speak today on behalf of my fellow HIV activist; this is rare opportunity to stand in front thy delegates, for this am very thankful.
To begin with, my name is Jennie Mphande, born 34 years ago and a widow. I have a 14 year old daughter and I keep other 5 relatives .I got married in 1992 .My husband became sick towards the end 2000.We went to MACRO in January 2001 and we were both tested positive, unfortunately my husband died in 2004 of pneumonia.
Things started getting tough for me after his death, I had to move to the house he bought though not completely built. Towards the end of 2005, I got very sick which lead to my own dismissal from my work as a teacher in a certain private school. I knew even I become better, the owner will fire me.
I stayed at home without any thing to do and was being admitted in the hospital frequently and thought I will die, Especially when the best friend to my husband came with the advice and I quote: Why cant you go back to your home village you are just wasting your time living in town without a job and moreover you don’t have money, children are suffering, just sell your house, nowadays if the husband die next is the wife”Mlamu, umenewo ndi mtengano”
My neighbor, who happens to be a dream client was concerned with my sickness and advised me if we could go together to DREAM centre. It was my first time to hear about DREAM. When we arrived at DREAM I realize there was still hope for me. I still remember the warm welcome I received from an Italian dream staff, who asked me, how do you like your new family? And I answered what family? She said Dream. It is very good but I am not sure if it’s real. What do you mean? She continued, I said I have never seen this beautiful hospital just being offered to HIV patients.
The next appointment was that I was offered a job as an activist. Dream has been a blessing from God because when I came, the people were and are still eager to understand my HIV situation.
To work as an HIV activist has been my happiest moment. Dream has saved my life physically and socially, I am strong and able to take care of my family. Now I am contributing to save the lives of other patient’s am always happy to work with Dream and let the world know that we are children of God, who love and care for each other and that being HIV its not a death sentence, but the beginning of new life with a dream.
My gratitude will forever go to the community of Saint Egidio who trained me as V.C.T Counselor. My work is carried out in some antenatal units of the health centre. It is aimed at testing the pregnant women, preventing mother to child transmission. And after, the women are brought to the centre where are treated according to the protocol of dream. Throughout pregnancy, the contact with the dream is opportunity because women are encouraged to do a test with advice, encouragement and assurance they will receive treatment and in hope that they will have a health child free of HIV, often without support of the husband who might be dead, absent of work and many reasons.
My work is challenging especially to women who understand what dream is, when I talk to them and prefer coming to our center and get the therapy but they meet many hindrances like;
1. when they disclose their status to the husband some are divorced.
2. some are accused of bringing the virus into their marriage
3. some refuse to be tested in fear of their husband
4. some even stop taking the ARV therapy in fear of their husband this may result to poor adh