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Eliwaja Samwell speaking to villagers as part of the outreach work of the Faraja Centre. She visits villages, hospitals and schools to encourage people to ascertain their HIV status so that, if they are living with HIV, they can access treatment and counselling to continue positively with their lives. Run by the Medical Missionaries of Mary, Faraja is considered by the Tanzanian government to be a centre of excellence in HIV treatment and prevention. Photo: The Faraja Centre.

During the last three decades a significant degree of progress has been made globally in the fight against HIV and AIDS, with an estimated three out of four people who are living with HIV now knowing their status.

From Singida in northern Tanzania, Eliwaja Samwell is a single mother with one son. She learned she was HIV-positive in 2003. She was tested at the Faraja Centre outreach programme run by Misean Cara member the Medical Missionaries of Mary, at a time when there was no antiretroviral (ARV) medication available. In 2006, she was one of the first people to begin ARV treatment at the local government hospital.

In 2009, Eliwaja began working with the Faraja Centre’s outreach programme. She is a valuable resource to the programme given her life experience, and also the fact that she speaks English, Swahili and the local language.

“We were given much training and with the government’s 24 Community Health Workers were chosen and trained to a high level. Together with the Community Health Workers, we started providing home-based care for people living with HIV,” says Eliwaja. “Treatment was new and not easily available – sometimes people had to pay a lot for a month’s treatment as it came from Kenya.”

“We visited and searched for people living with HIV. Our centre has an open door for free counselling and testing, and it was the first centre to operate in Singida town.”

The outreach programme went beyond focusing strictly on health and adopted a more holistic approach of improving livelihoods by setting up Small Internal Lending Communities (SILCs) to allow members to borrow and lend money within the group. Eliwaja became part of a SILC with 45 members. With the money she saved, Eliwaja enabled her son, who is now 23, to complete his training as a teacher.

Misean Cara has been supporting the work of the Faraja Centre since 2012.