Dee is 23 years old, today he works at Africaid-Zvandiri as a peer counsellor. Dee is grateful to his mother, who taught and raised him not to be dependent on people.
“My mother always taught me that I must be independent not burdening people by being needy. She used to tell me that I must take a stand and never shake like reed in flowing waters, up till today I am still grateful for such sound encouragement, because when she passed away and I was left alone, life as I knew it changed but thanks to her advice, I was able to overcome” said Dee, we were conducting the interview at Zvandiri House in Avondale, Harare. Dee says that his parents separated when he was 2 years old, he says his father stays in Bulawayo. “I saw my father once- his separation from my mother did not in any way mean he was separated from me but he chose not to care about my wellbeing I used to know some of my paternal relatives but in 2005 there was an operation to clear Zimbabwe of illegal residential building structures otherwise known as Operation Murambatsvina or Tsunami, so they relocated and I have no idea of their whereabouts. They too did not truly care as they could have come at any given time to see me. Some people say I should look for my father but how is that going to be of use to me? I grew up as lonely child with a family surrounding me, I found friends in church and here at Africaid-Zvandiri” Dee spoke with a voice full of sorrow.
Dee is one of the 25 peer counsellors working in Harare under this organization; he lives in Mbare, where he is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. “I am a catholic; I am also one of the youth leaders in my church. After my mother passed away, there was no one to pay my school fees, my guardian told me that it would be better if I dropped out of school but because I wanted to write O’Level exams, I went to my church and told them my challenge. They paid my fees for that term and found out that I had been registered on BEAM (program which pays school fees for orphans and those children living in poverty).” Dee is grateful to a woman living in his community. He says she actually cared for him and when she saw his deteriorating health, she wanted to know the problem. “I want to give special mention to a woman who lives in my community; she used to be a nurse way back and is now in retirement. A woman, who in my view is equal to my birth mother, saw my sad state of health and asked me the reason behind it.
I told her I had been sick for quite some time, she encouraged me to go to the clinic to have my blood tested. I was 16 (legal age of consent in Zimbabwe) so I went to the nearest clinic where I told them I wanted to have a blood test, they refused telling me I was too young hence I needed to be accompanied by an adult. I was adamant to get tested, so at the end I was referred to the sister in charge who was able to help me. What came out of that test is what I am today.” Dee says it took him many weeks before he got the courage to tell someone but one day he made up his mind and told his Aunt.
“After my mother passed away, I began living with my mother’s younger sister. I told her I had tested HIV positive, as someone without adequate information, she urged me to keep it to myself and forget it since it was not that important and that it should be a secret between us two.” Dee did not want to take his medication supply at his local clinic; he then went to Newlands Clinic where he received help in 2009. “I did not want to be seen taking my medicine at my community clinic, I then went to Newlands Clinic where p was initiated onto the ART program in the same year. As someone without someone to remind and motivate me, I grew tired of the ARVs and stopped taking them after one. At the end of 2010, I got seriously ill and went back to Newlands Clinic where they taught me about adherence and they put me in contact with Africaid-Zvandiri. I was initiated on the second line regimen which was very successful. Today I educate my fellow peers on the dangers of poor adherence from a given prescription given by the medical practitioner.”
Today Dee says he is fighting against stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. “I want to see people living with HIV being viewed the same as their negative counterparts. I also wish that children born with the virus to know that they are not alone in this. Due to disclosing my status, I have a girlfriend who is from my church. We are abstaining from sex and she did not believe I was HIV positive, I then came with her to Africaid where she finally got closure that I was truly HIV positive.”
The writer is of the opinion that children living with HIV when they reach the right age to settle down, we then as water should allow them to be the fish, so that they are able to swim