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Regina Antony Paulo

Regina Antony Paulo

Regina Paulo is a Lay Counselor at the Meatu District Hospital CTC.

Because of HIV, my husband and I have lost two of our children. It has been a pain like no other. In 2002, I gave birth to our first child, a son, who is now a healthy preteen. But during my second pregnancy in 2005, I became ill and weak with fungus all over my body. When I went to the hospital, nurses advised me to take an HIV test. However, I did not follow their advice.  Four months into the pregnancy, I had a miscarriage. In 2006, I finally took the HIV test and discovered that I had the virus. But I could not accept my HIV-positive status.

I did not therefore take the prescribed antiretroviral therapy (ART), even though the drugs were available at the Shinyanga Regional Hospital, which was not nearby. Instead I went to a traditional healer who said that my husband’s ex-wife had bewitched me for invading her household. Unfortunately, I believed that story and followed the healer’s treatment instead. I remained sick.

Program Years one and two have been successful for AGPAHI. We have managed to achieve most of our objectives despite facing several challenges. AGPAHI has expanded and gained momentum in the implementation of HIV &AIDS services in Shinyanga, Geita and Simiyu regions. We continue to strengthen our current programs, train our staff as well as partners at the district councils. For that reason, we plan to ensure that our next program year runs more smoothly with innovative approaches. AGPAHI’s future plans are to increase integration of reproductive and child health, pediatric services, TB testing, male involvement in campaigns such as testing campaigns, cervical cancer screening and so forth. We are also planning to attract more donors to fund our future programs and improve our presence in the above mentioned programs. We continue to learn innovative approaches and costs effective program implementation techniques.

 We continue to engage our government both at central and local levels; in particular collaborating with the MOHSW, NACP, PMO- RALG, TACAIDS, USAID and CDC to strengthen the organization’s capacities and to encourage citizens to use HIV & AIDS services which are available for prevention and treatment. We will have meetings with high level civil service officials, policy makers as part of our advocacy mission as well as fostering partnerships. Finally, we will continue to keep an eye on systems development – operational, finance, human resources, plan and budget, internal and external audits to mention just a few; systems that contribute in making AGPAHI efficient, effective and accountable. We will do more, better and reach further with fewer resources that we have.

In 2008, I became pregnant again. When I went to the hospital, the nurses insisted that I join a family planning program, adding that my husband also needed to come to the hospital. This time I listened. Both of us received family planning education and were tested for HIV. We found that my husband was also HIV-positive, and together we enrolled in a care and treatment program supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF).  By then, the HIV drugs were available at a nearby district hospital, and it was easy for us to collect our monthly doses. Although I took the prescribed ART during my pregnancy, my health was poor, and my baby was born with HIV. He passed away one year later.  When the nurses got the news about that death, they consoled me and advised me continue with the family planning program, which I did. This made me rest and look after my health and the health of my son. I frequently visited the clinic for more family planning education and to check my CD4 count [which indicates the severity of HIV]. In 2010, during one of my family planning visits, I learned that my health was good and so was my CD4 count.

I was told that I could try to have another child. My husband and I were ecstatic, and soon I was pregnant. My daughter was born without any complications and is HIV-free. In December 2012, I became a lay counselor at the Meatu District Hospital care and treatment center. Working with the Ariel Glaser Pediatric AIDS Healthcare Initiative (AGPAHI), an EGPAF affiliate, I draw upon my experience as I advise other HIV-positive women to follow ART, rather than rely on traditional healers. My husband and I continue our ART and are healthy—as are our 11-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. We are so grateful for the support that we have received from EGPAF and AGPAHI, especially in their efforts to return lost clients to care and treatment.  They are restoring hope to people who have lost it.