Pasada revisited

…Continued from Friday, July 6

Sorry we left you hanging before! We weren’t able to finish our reflection from our visit to PASADA (the comprehensive AIDS center in Dar es Salaam). We split up into three groups to accompany the Home Based Care nurses and volunteers on their visits to wagonjwa (those who are sick). Many people we visited were suffering HIV/AIDS, TB, and resulting opportunistic infections. Here are some of our stories…

Michael, Alena, and I accompanied Asha, a nurse from the area, on her home care visits this past Friday. The roads were much different than the ones at home – to say the least. They were all dirt and had big ditches which made me wonder how the shocks of the taxi we hired were able to make the journey without running into any of the small children or the people on the street trying to sell everything from goats to maize. We were unable to reach our first home care patient by car, so we had to walk the last length of it. The first patient was an elderly man whose wife was in denial about him having HIV/AIDS, so he wasn’t taking the ARVs (Anti RetroViral drugs) that could have saved him from such suffering. As it stood the man that sat in front of us in a wooden chair had little life left in him. He could not hold his neck up and was unable to take food, move his limbs, communicate, or any of the other daily activities that we take for granted. He lived with his second wife (his first wife had already passed) and there were other family members that came in and out of the home. His wife was exhausted trying to keep up with her husband’s health needs and was too tired to even help him exercise his muscles. Michael recognized this need and with much care he moved the man’s fragile arms and legs. This experience was especially challenging for Alena and I as we were unable to communicate in Kiswahili and therefore didn’t know how we could assist.

In the second home, a very friendly woman escorted us to the back room where Matlida, a naked frail woman lying on her bed under a thin blanket, awaited our visit. She lit up when she saw two mzungus had come to visit her and grabbed for our arms. She thought it was a pleasant experience when two mzungus had come to visit her as she had never had any direct contact with white people before. Right there I felt like I had a purpose, and she squeezed some life back into me. Matlida held my hand for the remainder of the visit. We were struck by her strength and courage. When the nurse asked how she felt, she said that she had no pain, even though it was evident that she was shaking and was fighting hard to smile and laugh. The nurse offered her food and medicine, but she said that she didn’t need anything and that her illness was not a reason enough to reduce her to begging. We found out later that she is 33 years old, but lying there she looked like she was only about 16 or 18. We visited two more houses. One her family informed us that she had been taken to the hospital, and the second was a man who had recently relapsed with TB but had not tested for HIV/AIDS yet, although the nurse suspected that he was.

Stigma looms large for people suffering from HIV/AIDS, as we saw through how our visit created discomfort to the families of the patients. They didn’t want the secret to get out that someone in their home might have the dreaded illness. I was struck by the care and time Asha gave to her patients. It went far beyond a doctor’s visit in the states. Asha asked about the patient’s family, health, and how they were dealing emotionally with their condition. This was an emotional day for sure, and I’m very thankful for the families who opened their homes to us so that we were able to share this experience.


The 2nd house i went to was to see a 6 year old girl with TB. She had sores all over her body which clearly hurt her because when the lady would lift her, her dress would rub against her sores and she would scream. She was so brave though, she didn’t cry, but instead would whimper softly while the doctor talked to her aunt. I have never seen someone so sad in all my life. She had big black eyes, and they were just so sad. So sad. The poor thing, not only did she live in a country where she had little opportunity to get education, not only did she live in a home infested with mice, with few possessions, not only was she poor…but she has TB. She doesn’t even know why. She is just suffering for no reason. If she were born in the US, she would have been cured already and lived a normal life, a normal childhood. What does one do with something like that???


I hear the numbers of those afflicted with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and I am distressed. But then I meet, smile with, shake hands with, and spend time with people with HIV/AIDS in Tanzania – and my heart is broken open. I traveled with Kelly, Jason, and Joe to several houses in Mabibo with the home based care nurses. Most visits are to those without the economic means to have hospital care, so most of our visits are to people living in single rooms that serve as houses. Their bed, a suitcase of clothes, pots, and a gas stove are all they own. We all do not fit in the room, so some of us sit outside and wait. We meet Agnes, her mother and her child. I am overwhelmed with sensory overload. Agnes’ smile as she fans the flies away from her open lesions. “Oh, you are doing better,” says the nurse in Kiswahili. I try not to look surprised as the smell of sickness permeates the house. Anges’ 3 week old baby is tiny; she was told not to breastfeed for fear of passing the disease. But Agnes smiles and converses and her entire face lights up when we realize she is the relative of a friend of mine from my teaching days as a Jesuit Volunteer. All at once, and for the millionth time I see that I could be her or another young African woman with AIDS; but for the circumstances of my birth, I am not. All I can do is smile, say good-bye, and pray for her, her mother, and her child. We meet Vera, who is paralyzed from a stroke and is suffering from HIV/AIDS. She cannot speak and she cannot care for herself. A relative cares for her; they both live in a single room. Vera’s children live nearby. Her husband has left her. They do not have enough food. I am helpless, but I watch as the nurse excercises Vera’s lifeless fingers. At the end of the visit, I too, hold Vera’s lifeless hand, and she smiles at me as we leave. The nurse dispenses drugs and arranges with one of their volunteers to ask the church community donate food. As several students have reflected on this trip – more than anything, Africa needs our eyes. We need to see. -Beth Ford-


2 Responses to “Pasada revisited”

  1. 1 Marianne Grace July 11, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Thank you. Marianne

  2. 2 Debbie July 18, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Thank you for that. My dream is to go visit as you have, I’m just waiting for a group to appear that I can join. beautiful stories.

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