HIV-Positive Peer Educator and Trainer of Trainers: Iddy's StoryRead All Posts
Iddy Wiraji Chuma is a positive role model for the youth living in Bagamoyo District, a two-hour drive Northwest of Dar Es Salaam. He volunteers with the Tanzanian Red Cross as a peer educator and a trainer of trainers in a program funded by PEPFAR/USAID and managed by the International Youth Foundation (IYF). The day we met him he was performing in a market area. The drama he performed is focused on an orphaned teenager rescued by a relative from the street but mistreated and discriminated against by the children of this new guardian. Eventually this young man is framed as a thief and is kicked out of the house. Iddy then opens up a discussion with the audience. Is this the way to treat an orphan? What has he done apart from losing his father to HIV?
I have been an actor for the past four years. In our community there are many problems related to HIV/AIDS. When I saw people volunteering, I also wanted to get involved and do something for my community. At first people did not believe I was HIV positive because they thought people who are positive look sick, are thin and ill. Some even thought I was lying in order to gain something and get money. Now people know me and respect me. Sometimes, after I perform, they follow me back home to ask questions about HIV. My peers want me to rest and when I perform they are worried about my health. I am not yet on ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs) because my CD blood count is good. I found out about my status just a couple of years ago. The truth is that I want to be there every time we perform. It is important for me to be there.
I believe that God gave me a talent, the talent to perform and mobilize people. I feel responsible for helping young people to not get infected with HIV. You see, we are at a crossroad here, near this market. There is a lot of traffic coming from Arusha and going to Dar. Even though this is a small town, there is a lot of money circulating. Young people often do not have a steady supply of money because there is no industry here, only small businesses. In the evening hours, there is no entertainment, no distractions. So what do young people do? They drink beer and engage in risky sexual behaviors. There are rooms where businessmen go with young girls. Most men in this area have traditional wives—in other words they are not legally married. I think it really helps to talk and be straight about these issues. Even the elders ask me questions about HIV but many of them are in denial about Aids. Old people still practice unsafe sex but young people are more careful these days. Young people are even motivated to test themselves for HIV.
In this last play I choose to focus on stigma because there is a lot of it in the community where I live. I want to show how vulnerable young children are, especially if they are orphans with no one to protect them.
I wish I could continue studying and perhaps become a social worker. I would also like to learn other languages. We don’t make any money from these performances but we are paid a small fee to cover transportation and other costs. We bring the drums and when we beat the drums, people gather around. We start to perform when we have a good size crowd. My goal is to raise awareness and make people think, ask questions.