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Maimuna and Jumanne: A Shining Light in One Couple’s Darkest Hours

On a warm day in January, 28-year-old Maimuna walked 2km along a dirt road to a health center in Magugu town where she lives in Tanzania. Nearing her due date, she was going to the clinic for a final antenatal check-up. But during her visit, she received devastating news—a blood test revealed she was HIV positive.

That day, Maimuna returned home in utter shock but was afraid to tell her husband, Jumanne. She had heard of many husbands reacting aggressively to such news, blaming their wives, refusing to accept the results, and in some cases abandoning their families. But perhaps most of all, Maimuna was worried about the health of her baby.

A week later, Maimuna went into labor. In the midst of labor, Maimuna broke the news to Jumanne, whose heart sank. After getting tested himself, Jumanne learned that he too was HIV positive. As they awaited the arrival of their baby, normally a moment of elation for parents, the two struggled to come to terms with their new status.

But EngenderHealth-trained nurses at the clinic reassured the couple, explaining how they could help keep the baby healthy through a process known as the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). Two months later, the couple was ecstatic and relieved to learn that their baby was free of HIV. They were grateful to the nurses for their guidance, knowledge, and comfort in the darkest hours of their lives. Today, the parents continue to visit the clinic for HIV treatment and family planning services.

Magugu Health Center is one of thousands of health sites supported by EngenderHealth in Tanzania and around the world. Just three years ago, clients like Maimuna and Jumanne who needed HIV treatment or PMTCT services would have had to travel another 25km southwest to reach Babati District Hospital, the nearest facility with the resources to help them. Often, clients drop off within these cumbersome referral systems, declining to pursue services because of stigma, a lack of transportation, or other reasons.

But because of EngenderHealth’s support, the health staff in Magugu today can meet the comprehensive reproductive health needs of their clients—short- and long-term family planning, basic obstetric care, PMTCT, and HIV care and treatment—all under one roof. Through the ACQUIRE Tanzania Project, in partnership with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), EngenderHealth trains providers to offer quality reproductive health services, equips facilities with critical supplies and medicine, and supports physical renovations at the clinic to improve service provision.

Being able to receive all of these services in one place makes a world of difference for families like Maimuna and Jumanne, who struggle to provide for their four children. The family rents a tiny room with stone walls, built on a dirt foundation in the Majenga neighborhood of Magugu. Together, the family of six shares two small beds.

“I am grateful that we don’t have to travel to many different places to get all of the health services we need,” said Jumanne, a 45-year-old farmer, who offers a gentle smiles as he speaks, in spite of the recent hardships he has faced. “Life has changed since I found out that we have HIV. I can no longer work as I used to because the medication leaves me feeling tired.”

Following the delivery of their baby, the couple also received counseling on available family planning options, having decided not to have any more children. Being able to plan their future is essential, given the family’s new status.

“We don’t plan to have any more children because now we are fighting for our own lives,” Jumanne said. “Being able to plan my family puts me at ease, so I worry less about being able to provide for my children over the long term.”

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