Resilient and grateful is how Rose, a mother of two in the Arusha region of Tanzania, describes herself. She is also HIV-positive.
“I discovered I was positive in 2012 while pregnant with my third child,” she explained. “I was devastated to receive my results. I shared the news with my husband, who didn’t take it very well. He decided to leave me and my children, without any support. I delivered my [third] child safely; I had not begun taking ARVs because [I thought] my immunity was still very strong. But all was not well and after six months, my baby died.”
Rose sunk into depression. As her health deteriorated, alcohol—at any time of day—became her refuge. But when a community caseworker came calling, Rose found a far better balm. The caseworker, who was trained on HIV case management by the Community Health and Social Welfare Systems Strengthening Program (CHSSP), “explained that being HIV-positive is not the end of life. She told me about herself, offered me support and promised to walk with me through this journey. She told me that I was too young to give up on life. I didn’t have any love in my heart, but she made me feel loved.” The caseworker convinced Rose to take ARV medication and became “like a second mother.”
Rose is among the 1 million people in Tanzania who have been tested for HIV. Ninety percent of those who tested positive have started treatment. All this is due to the JSI-managed, USAID-funded CHSSP, which focuses on helping Tanzania achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets and ending the epidemic in key populations (e.g., most vulnerable children, adolescent girls and young women, and people living with HIV).
CHSSP has trained more than 15,000 community caseworkers to identify, track, and manage HIV cases. These caseworkers are just one part of the program’s system-strengthening approach; in councils where CHSSP works, more than 600 multi-sectoral AIDS committees and more than 50 groups of people living with HIV have been strengthened, and more than 50 violence against women and children protection committees established. All work with the caseworkers, who have identified and linked more than 730,000 orphans and vulnerable children to critical health and social welfare services, including HIV testing.
Rose, meanwhile, is living a healthy life and her two sons are excelling in secondary school. Rose calls herself an ambassador for other people who are living with HIV in her community, providing the help and support they need, just as her community caseworker did for Rose.