“Africaid Zvandiri Programme and the Young People’s Network on Sexual Reproductive Health HIV & AIDS invented my self-esteem as a young girl living with HIV”
Twenty-two- year-old Loyce Maturu never thought she could be a peer educator, national trainer and an advocate with Africaid Zvandiri and the Young People’s Network on Sexual Reproductive Health HIV and AIDS. As long as she can continue on medication, she is geared to out-rival in all spheres of society despite her HIV status.
For many young girls dressing in extravagant clothes, shower with virtuous fragranced deodorizers and going out with friends practicing group socializing brings satisfaction of a girlhood stage but for the 22 year old girl everything turned to sour when she knew her HIV status at the age of 13 and disclosed at the age of 17 when she faced discrimination from relatives and friends.
Her parents died in 2000 in the same month, in 2007 she felt sick to an extent of being bed bound and admitted to Suburban Medical Centre for three days and that’s when she was tested HIV positive. During post counselling the nurse informed her that she was born with HIV, her mother and her brother died as an upshot of HIV related illness.
She went to New lands clinic where she received treatment, she joined a support group called Zvandiri meaning accept me as l am. When the Zvandiri Programme started it had 5 adolescents but up to date there are also other Zvandiri support groups in Manicaland, Harare, Manicaland and Bulawayo.
In 2009 Africaid received a project proposal targeting young people out of school who are keen to support other peers. Loyce was selected to be part of the team to assist young people in Warren Park. She was trained on Counselling and did clinical attachment at Newlands Clinic under the programme well known as the Community Adolescents Treatment Supporters (CATS) As she was one of the peer Councillors in Warren Park, National AIDS Council District AIDS Coordinator liaised with Africaid office so that Loyce can represent Young People Living with HIV in the Young People’s Network on Sexual Reproductive Health HIV and AIDS at district level. Currently she is also representing Young People Living with HIV at district, provincial and at national level in the network.
“Before l accept a love proposal firstly l tell the person about my status so that they know the kind of person they are dating and not to be shocked when they see me on TV, Pamphlets, Booklets and on radio because l speak on different platforms about my HIV status and advocating on behalf of my peers at different forums ’’she added
While staying with her aunt, the turnaround was very dramatic through the Young People’s Network on Sexual Reproductive Health HIV and AIDS Loyce represented Zimbabwe at the Social Media Training workshop which was held in South Africa with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), last year in December she attended the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) where she participated on the WEBNA platform for UNAIDS talking about her HIV status and challenges which are being faced by young people ,in May she attended the World Health Assembly in Geneva and gave a presentation on challenges which are being faced by Adolescents Living with HIV.
Recently, with support from Africaid Zvandiri Loyce was a panel speaker at the Global Fund Community Rights and Gender Youth Brown Bag session in Geneva, she was a participant in advocating for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis in priority populations meeting which was jointly organised by World Health Organisation and UNAIDS with support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she is also a member of the Communities Delegation to the Board of the Global Fund to Fight Against AIDS, TB and Malaria.
‘At the moment l m not facing any challenges because l am convinced that HIV is in the blood and not in the Brain’ said Loyce Maturu
She said being HIV positive does not mean the end of life but actually it is the beginning of a great life. Nothing cannot stop an HIV positive adolescent from achieving his or her goals.
Moving forward Loyce wants to be a professional counsellor and a TV presenter on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health HIV and AIDS issues.
Africaid is a community organisation in Zimbabwe which, through its Zvandiri programme, integrates community prevention, treatment, care and support for children and adolescents living with HIV. The programme provides a combination of community based prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV positive children and adolescents. These services complement the care provided in clinics and promote a robust continuum of care for children and their families. The Zvandiri model is led by HIV positive adolescents at all levels, from planning through to service delivery as counsellors, trainers and advocates for their HIV positive peers.