PhD Abigail Kiwelu: “Experiences of older people living with HIV in Tanzania”

Abigail Kiwelu – PhD Researcher, RESILIENT Project

In my research project, I intend to find out on what has been working for older persons living with HIV in Tanzania, particularly the rural. HIV is one of those topics in Social Work that have received fair attention. However, I realised that (in Tanzania) there is a gap of information regarding the group of older persons in this category. With more awareness, advancements in Antiretroviral treatment and more adherence, people living with HIV live
longer and are growing old. There is therefore, a growing need of understanding their
experiences, challenges and success stories. It is important to find out on interventions,
formal and informal support they have been receiving and how they perceive that support.

As part of Social Work faculty in my country, my involvement in this study will enhance my
skills and capacity in research and social development for marginalized and socially
excluded groups such as the older people living with HIV. For me and my colleagues in this
project, enhancing our capacities through research and other forms of academic involvement (provided in this project) will in the long run also strengthen Social Work graduate programs in our home countries. For these expectations to be realised, I look forward to teamwork and close collaboration with my colleagues and supervisors respectively. Additionally, in order to pull this off successfully, I also intend to make every moment I have in this project count, by sharing with my team all the light and intense experiences of this journey as much as I can.

The three-year journey I am aware, will not be all rosy. I anticipate challenges at different
levels, from the project as a whole, the research process and even at a personal level. For
example, my primary participants are older persons living with HIV from rural Tanzania, will
they perhaps think I am too young as compared to the weight of information they have? I am still quite new when it comes to publishing articles, I therefore expect a lot of back and forth in that. I am a mother of an eighteen-month-old boy and as I write here, I miss him a lot. However, one thing I know is that whatever I will go through as a person or as part of this
wonderful team will not be completely new. There will always be a way to navigate either
through or around it. Afterall that is what resilience is about.