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TANZANIA: Tausi Ki Parara, "I felt like if I touched someone I would infect them"


Photo: Issa Yussuf/IRIN
On Fridays, women who have been abandoned by their husbands congregate in the streets outside Stone Town's mosques to beg for money.
STONE TOWN, 25 July 2007 (PlusNews) - In 2001, the private life of Tausi Ki Parara became the subject of much local gossip in her neighbourhood of Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean island off the coast of Tanzania.

"Peacock", the English translation of her Kiswahili name, was sick and her prospective husband had packed up and left. Rumours swirled. The truth was that Tausi had tested HIV-positive. "In Zanzibar you have to get a blood test before getting married. I went in trusting my health was fine," she said.

"When I found out I was HIV-positive it was a complete shock. My fiance was negative. He took it like I was a bad, promiscuous girl and said he could never trust me. It felt awful. He ran away and to this day I've never seen him again.

"Almost the entire population of Zanzibar [one million people] is Muslim. At that time, they could no longer accept me. They thought I was a prostitute and I didn't belong to their society. There was no counsellor to deal with things, I only had my brother to help me cope. I felt like if I touched someone I would infect them.

"Today things have changed: Muslim leaders on Zanzibar are leading the fight against AIDS. They know it is not just one person's problem, but everyone's, to solve.

"I met someone and married a month ago. My husband is HIV-positive; we plan to have kids. I'm educated, so I know the chances of my children contracting HIV, but I know how to protect them with treatment, and other ways to guard the baby. For example, I will save money to buy formula so I don't have to breast feed.

"When someone asks, now I tell them I'm HIV positive; everyone greets me and accepts me here. The truth has come out - people have learned through television and radio the facts about HIV.

"Because of HIV I have this job [she works for the HIV programme of Zanzibar Youth Advancement for Development, Education and Sanitation (ZAYADESA), a local non-governmental organisation], which has given me the chance to fly all over the world and to save money for my children's education; it's had its advantages, I would have to say.

"For myself, I'm fine. I just try to shout out to others and encourage them to check their health status. If you are asked about your status and can't say 'yes' or 'no', then you should be checked."

sm/kn/he


Theme(s): (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), (IRIN) PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews, (IRIN) Stigma/Human Rights/Law - PlusNews

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.