PIUMA brings villages and communities together

PIUMA, the association of people living with HIV in the Bulongwa area, recently sponsored two meetings to discuss how PIUMA can work with the community and with donors to ensure high quality, accessible AIDS care and treatment programs in Makete District.

More than 500 people participated in these sessions held in the village centres of Bulongwa and Iniho. A number of village elders and elected leaders also attended in support of a return to an active partnership between EAWM (the development agency of the Austrian Lutheran church), PIUMA, and local villages. The EAWM-sponsored HIV Care and Treatment team has been locked out of the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital since disputes arose over alleged mismanagement of hospital resources by local Lutheran authorities.

"We are disappointed that our work here has been interrupted," said Gottfried Mernyi, General Secretary of EAWM, to the meeting in Bulongwa. "We want to continue to support the people of Makete who are living with HIV-AIDS but we expect the local authorities to commit themselves to transparency, accountability and recognition of the necessity of including HIV positive persons in all planning and management of programming designed to help them."

In Iniho, village elders and leaders spoke out vigorously in support of the actions of PIUMA and its partners.

"The members of PIUMA have shown great courage in stating publicly that they are HIV positive," said mzee (or elder) Mwenentela Fungo. "I encourage everyone to follow their example, to get tested, and to live in hope."

"You have the right to speak out and to fight for what we need," said Atusungie Sanga, pointing to the Tanzanian flag flying proudly on the stage. "Tanzanian law protects us and encourages us to work in our villages and find our own solutions to our problems."

PIUMA General Secretary Wema Sanga said that her organization wants to run its own community-based clinic and invited Dr. Rainer Brandl to return to Makete. "Dr. Rainer should return and work with us until death do us part!" she said to laughter and applause.

PIUMA is active on a range of health, advocacy and economic development issues, fighting for justice and for dignity for people living with HIV, their families and their villages. PIUMA members are proud Tanzanians whose work is deeply rooted in Tanzanian law and in the country's traditions of equality and community-based democracy.

July 7, 2006.