Safari Camille, VSO National Volunteer discussing with Nyirahakizimana Berthilde and Musabimana Chantal both members of Twisungane COCOMA

Living with HIV in Rwanda

Ten years ago, Beretilde Nyirahakizimana, 53, discovered her husband was having an affair. Shortly after, she got even worse news - the other woman had HIV. Results soon confirmed that all three tested positive.

Life was a challenge and Beretilde was struggling to raise her four young children. Life changed when she received two pigs. Just one year on she has sold two litters of piglets, bought a cow, and increased her yields on her farmlands. Beretilde tells her story.

Beretilde at her home

Another woman

“My husband works in the north. About ten years ago, I went to visit him at his workplace. When I reached there, I found that he had another woman.

“I did not have time to feel anything. People there told me that the woman had a problem and that we should all go to the clinic.”

Living with HIV

“We all got tested. That’s when I found out I had HIV. I just had to accept it – I didn’t have any choice.

“Life was a challenge. I was taking medicine. We were living only from a small income from agriculture. My children were young, and paying school fees for them was a problem.”

Joining the cooperative

“A nurse who was seeing me through HIV treatment was kind to me. So I asked her, ‘How can I live?’ She told me about this cooperative of women in my situation. She encouraged me to join. Before then, I didn’t know anyone else with HIV.

“We used to plant pineapples. We did not have the capital for livestock. But about one year ago, VSO gave me two pigs. Today I am expecting a litter of piglets for the third time. It might be 6-8 piglets, and I can sell each one for 10,000RWF (£10).

“Two weeks ago I bought a cow. In a year or two when I sell it. The profit can be very big. It will pay for secondary school fees. This has all happened in only one year. I feel very happy.

“To be honest, life has improved a lot. The fertiliser from the pigs has helped me increase the harvest of my own land. We have more food.

“I have already given four pigs to other members of the co-operative. We support each other, and contribute when there are weddings and newborns. VSO has given training to the president and committee of our cooperative."

A businesswoman

“Now I feel like a businesswoman. I have a dream to expand the pig’s house and invest more.

“I am still married. My husband comes now only to visit the children. In our culture sometimes a husband may not tell you he is happy because of your work. When he comes he sees the animals but says nothing. But I am very happy.”

VSO’s livelihoods projects in Rwanda support cooperatives of disadvantaged people such as people with HIV, people with disabilities, and Genocide orphans, with finance and business training by volunteers. Find out about our work in Rwanda.

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