New HIV/AIDS Project Gives Hope in Tanzania


Today, December 1st, is World Aids Day. Sr. Kate Costigan takes some time from the busy clinics of Bugisi, Tanzania to share about a new project which is giving renewed hope to a region greatly affected by HIV/AIDS.

Sr. Kate Costigan with a local family in Bugisi, Tanzania.png

Sr. Kate Costigan with a local family in Bugisi, Tanzania.

Thirty five years after it was first clinically observed, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles (OLA) continue their mission to reach out to those living with HIV/AIDS across Africa and in Ireland. Sr. Kate, who is originally from Templemore, Co. Tipperary and is a trained nurse by profession, has been in Tanzania, located in the Catholic Diocese of Shinyanga, for over fifteen years. Since the order was founded by Fr. Augustine Planque in 1876, healthcare has been a corner stone of the OLA mission.

Test and Treat

Recently a new five year ‘Test and Treat’ project commenced. The ambitious project aims to test up to 300,000 people and treat up to 20,000 people – ten per cent of whom are to be children.

Sr. Kate explains:

“Pope Francis has invited missionaries to be ‘missionaries of God’s love, tenderness and mercy’. The source and strength of the OLA’s work within this Test and Treat project is rooted in our Christian faith and in our passion and commitment in the healing ministry of Christ. Our approach to healthcare is permeated with the Gospel values of love, compassion, and an utmost respect for all, with special emphasis for the person living with HIV/AIDS.

“Using high quality testing services we aim to identify those with HIV/AIDS. The next step is to effectively and quickly link those who test positive to community based treatment, care and support.”

Many roads in the region are in poor condition. With her trusty red motorbike, Sr. Kate can travel cross-country and reach remote areas quickly. The time saved on the journey gives Sr. Kate more time to tend to those who need care. Sr. Kate shares one example:

“The Itwangi area has a particularly prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Having a mobile clinic here means people do not have to make the long journey to Bugisi. A central part of this new project is that it will be community based in terms of the testing and care elements.”

The newly opened care and treatment centre in Bugisi, Tanzania.png

The newly opened care and treatment centre in Bugisi, Tanzania.

Renewed hope

Back in Bugisi the newly constructed wing of the care and treatment centre for people living with HIV/AIDS has opened. Hope radiates around the region. A special event will take place in Bugisi this Saturday (December 3rd) to mark World Aids Day. Sr. Kate expects there will be up to 1,000 people in attendance.

When Sr. Kate is asked what motivates her mission, she quotes a line from English writer, John Bunyan:

"You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

The Test and Treat project is a joint collaboration between the OLA Sisters, Good Samaritan Foundation, Gilead Science, Shinyanga Diocese, Doctors with Africa – an Italian NGO.

Tanzania has a population of approximately 46 million people with up to 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS. The OLA Sisters have had a presence in Tanzania for twenty five years with communities in Mwanza, Mwamapala and Bugisi – all located in the north of the country. In addition to healthcare, education and pastoral works are key priorities of the mission.