The story of Kabuyu, the man who dares to stand up to Kinga taboos to challenge the spread of HIV head on.

I am Kabuyu Kambanyuma Kyando, an HIV positive Tanzanian 57 years old born on November 7th, in Makete, one of the worst HIV/AIDS affected districts in my country, in East Africa. I have fathered eight children.

I got married to my first wife, Enea Ngeliwe Fungo, six years my junior, in 1970. We have six children. A few years later I got married to two more wives as this is a normal custom in our Kinga tribe. Each of them, Rehema Luvanda , my second wife, and Kwini Subili Mahenge, my third wife bore me a child. I am separated from Kwini who currently lives in Kyela, another district that has been badly hit by HIV/AIDS on the border of Tanzania and Malawi. However, we share the parental responsibilities to raise our child.

Some of my offspring are still in school and others are married. Asifiwe, Clementina and Atanasi are all married. Faustina and Amini have completed primary school education. They are still at home because I cannot afford to pay for their school fees. They are helping me on the farm where we grow a bit of food crops to satsify our needs. My aim is to get them back to school or send them to a vocational centre where they can learn life self-reliant skills in order to start an income-generating scheme and be self-employed.

Nitume is in secondary school. Riziki is studying dressmaking and embroidery and Amina is in primary school.

I realized that I was HIV positive in 2004 after being ill for two years without getting better. I had TB of the bones, frequent fevers and herpes zoster, which was painful and I was suffering in silence, because I did not dare to face my family and tell them about my illness. I lost weight incredibly. Somehow, I was ashamed of my condition, as people who had the illness faced stigma in our society. I lost hope and I thought that I was already a corpse. My relatives and friends also lost hope.

When the HAART (Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy) programe started in Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital, I consulted Dr. Rainer Brandl, the man in charge of the project, who advised me to see a counsellor. I attended a few counselling sessions and decided to go for voluntary testing. Now I am receiving the drugs through the HAART programme.

I am very grateful to Lord the Almighty for the miracle he has showered upon me and also to Dr. Rainer Brandl and the whole team at the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital's Care and Treatment Centre who somehow have enabled me to rise from the death bed. I continue to receive counselling through HAART programme in Bulongwa Lutheran Hospitall with hardworking nurses, such as Mary Musoma.

I am very grateful to them and to Byron Tweve for his advice and working together with all of us who are HIV positive. We now live in peace and are happy as we discuss our problems and successes and help one another. We have started a non-governmental organisation of people living with HIV/AIDs. We comfort and support one another.

Now that I am aware of my condition, I have made sure that I will never infect others, by taking all the necessary measures to combat the spread of the scourge in the society, including changing my sexual behaviour, and I will make sure that I use condoms when I am overwhelmed with biological needs (although I do not have that urge at the moment).

Two of my wives have not been tested. My second wife is great, because she still respects me and has showed no sign of stigma against me, even though she has tested negative. I am very grateful to her because she has continued to respect me. For almost five years, we have never had sex.

I cannot tell whether my children have been infected or not, because they have not been tested. All that I am trying to do is to advise them to go for counselling and voluntary testing.

I am on TRIOMUNE 40. I am well and feel healthy again and you cannot tell just by looking at me that I am HIV positive. My weight has increased from 40kg to 62.5kg. My CD4 count has risen from CD4 123 to 450 to date. I am strong and I can do any job without any problems.

My expectations include educating my children and building a good durable house. I live in a poorly built house and I admit that this is a result of my laziness as in the past I did not prepare myself for a better life.

In my life, I would like to continue with the work of promoting and strengthening PIUMA, ("Go for Testing in order to live with Hope"). I would like to make the community aware of the fact that there is no reason to die now, because the drugs are available, and for the society to stop living in fear, because HAVING AIDS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU ARE DYING. Please, go for testing.

I thought that it was important for me to join the AIDS campaign. After a village tour to sensitize people to go for testing, my friends Wema and Byron and I realized that HIV/AIDS awareness is still very low in Makete. People are dying because they still believe in witchcraft, while drugs are available.

It's simple: go for an HIV Test and if your Cd4 count is low, get the drugs and live with hope and live longer. However, we found that it is very difficult to educate people, especially when the subject is AIDS. They look at us as if we are discussing some obscenity. My team and I have tried as much as we can to talk openly and to some extent the community is starting to understand the problem of AIDS.

From my experience, it is clear that poverty has been one of the reasons why many people in my society lack courage and confidence. Therefore they give up easily and feel that it is better to die, than to continue suffering from the disease. Many do not have the strength to involve themselves in income-generating activities

MY MESSAGE: I urge and advise people to go for an HIV Test! THERE IS NO NEED TO FEAR! And it is not good to go for the test when you are sick. It is better to check your health from time to time.

By Kabuyu Kambanyuma Kyando
August 27, 2005.