An online magazine focused on positive leadership for change in Africa has recognized Highlands Hope of Tanzania Co-ordinator Betty Liduke as a "Leader of Change".
A feature interview with Betty is included in the latest edition of A. Magazine.
To read the full interview, go to:
Excerpt from A. Magazine:
Betty Liduke has been called a local legend in Njombe, Tanzania where she is a nurse and the Director of the Tanwat (Tanganyka Wattle Company) Hospital HIV- AIDS Care and Treatment Centre. Liduke is also the Coordinator of Highlands Hope of Tanzania, an association of nurses who work as HIV-AIDS counselors and caregivers in the southern highlands of the country.
According to the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), more than 2.2 million people in Tanzania are living with HIV/AIDS and an estimated 2 million children have been orphaned as a result of the disease. This doesn't seem to daunt Liduke who has been working with Tanwat's HIV/AIDS Program since 1996. She is also a founding member of the Kibena Women's Association, a group of professional women who provide support to women living in the local villages, and to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
As well as working with local community groups, Liduke has been working with McGill University's School of Nursing. She is the school's first International Clinical Instructor in Africa, and has traveled to Canada to meet with Canadian healthcare professionals and to participate in an International AIDS conference.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I really liked to be a nurse since I was a child. And my mother also wanted one of her children to be a nurse. She felt that is a very good work and she compared with God's work. I was the only one who was interested to go into nursing. My two sisters are teachers, one of my brothers was a veterinarian, and two of my brothers were working as car mechanics. All three brothers have died and we are three sisters remaining. My father and my mother also died.
How did you get involved in working with people HIV/AIDS?
I've been a nurse at the Tanwat [Company Hospital] since 1994. We started the HIV program, called the Workplace Intervention Program, with the company. We worked together in cooperation with AMREF, the African Medical & Research Foundation. From research in 1996 we found that there were cases of sexually transmitted infection of HIV/AIDS. At that time the company thought that it was good to start the program so we can give awareness to workers and their dependants to let them know that they were at risk for HIV/AIDS.
At that time, I was working with workers and their dependants only. But since 2001, Tanwat extended the program to 19 villages. Our workers also are living in the villages and coming to work, so we thought it would be good to extend to the villages.
In Bulongwa, I have three village-based groups made up of people living with HIV/AIDS. One of which is called PIUMA. [Ed. According to the Highlands Hope website, the PIUMA HIV Counseling and Testing Clinic is an independent, community-based clinic with leadership drawn primarily from local people living with HIV-AIDS.]
The other groups are CHAKUNIMU and TULILUMWI. They do community work, sensitization on development and HIV/AIDS awareness.
We started with prevention and awareness, and then in 1998 we started voluntary counseling and testing. We do testing for free. People don't have to pay for voluntary counseling and testing. In 2006 we started care and treatment with the help of the National AIDS Control Program and some international help. The government is giving us antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). This is a national program: all the care and treatment programs are supposed to give free ARVs to all the clients. Up to now, we have enrolled 557 people in our care and treatment program. Of those, 420 are on the ARVs.
What are some of the biggest issues you encounter in providing care and treatment?
For the treatment we have no problem with access to ARVs, but we have a problem with drugs for opportunistic infections. The government is not supplying them for us so we have to buy them. And people here are very poor. You can't tell them to buy the drugs because they have been sick for quite a long time and sometimes they have used all their money. So Tanwat buys the drugs and gives them to those who are not able to pay. Those who are able to pay, they pay. But for those who are not able, they are not paying.
Transportation is also an issue. For me I travel quite a lot because I have these 19 villages to go to. The roads to some of the villages are very bad. Especially during the rainy season, it is really hard to travel.
How do people react when you talk to them about HIV/AIDS?
At first when we started, the people they didn't want to talk about HIV/AIDS, but now they understand. And they can talk openly; we can discuss it. Even those who are HIV positive are talking too. But at first it was very, very difficult.
Have you lost anyone in your family to HIV/AIDS?
Yes, one of my close family members died of HIV/AIDS.
Are you optimistic? Do you think things will get better with HIV/AIDS in your community?
I think so. In Tanzania we have a very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS but at the villages I have been going since we started the program the prevalence is going down. People now they started to understand what is HIV. They go for voluntary counseling and testing and they get treatment and they do their work. Now we have started with schools. We have a program in primary schools and secondary schools. It is much better to make people understand before they get HIV.
You are also a volunteer with the Kibena Women?s Association. What does the Association do and how did it start?
I'm a coordinator for the Kibena Women's Association. We are 20 members and we started the Association in 2005. We are teachers, nurses, accountants, in agriculture - all professionals. I just talked with a few women and it was my opinion that we needed to work in a group so that we can help other women, mainly in the village. Not in town because in town there are many people who are helping. In the villages they don't get help because, you know, people don't want to go to the rural areas.
The life of village women is tough. They are the ones who wake up early in the morning and the ones who go to sleep late. Women in the villages do all the work of the field, taking care of the family, making sure the children have gone to school, making sure the family has daily food at home, doing all daily home activities, etc.
So we decided to get together so that we can raise the voice of women and educate them on various matters including HIV, income-generating projects, empowering women to have one voice etc.. We are also taking care of 17 orphans, [several] of them in secondary school, the remaining in primary school.
It must be challenging to do the work you do. What keeps you going?
My family makes me strong every time, whenever I become tired with the work. Also I love my work and job as I feel it is a part of my life. I really like to help my community. That is my heart, the feelings from my heart.