2015
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HIV is in the Blood,NOT in the Brain

“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.

From left Jane Ferguson,Loyce Maturu and Christy Feig,WHO Director for Communications at WHO Headquarters in Geneva

From left Jane Ferguson,Loyce Maturu and Christy Feig,WHO Director for Communications at WHO Headquarters in Geneva


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.

2014
By

Dancing in the storm 2

Zvandiri

Zvandiri

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

2014
By

Dancing in a raging Storm!

Two of our peer counsellors were interviewed by a reporter from one of our local newspapers, here is one of the interviews

Part 1

Loyce Maturu

Loyce Maturu

Greetings to you all, my name is Loyce Maturu, a girl aged 22. I work with an organization which focuses on adolescents and youths called Africaid-Zvandiri as a peer counsellor. When I was growing up, being constantly moved from one relative to another became my second nature, not because I wanted that but wherever I went for holidays, as soon as I arrived at my destination I would be told I was going to start living there. I would cry myself to sleep but that did not change anything. The process of growing up and being moved from one relative to another was due to my parents passing away whilst I was young. In 2000, my mother succumbed to ill health leaving me and my younger sibling, who was also sick. Before the week was out, he passed away, leaving me heartbroken. My father had passed away ages ago, I do not even remember him since I at that time I was too young. The journey of soul searching for me to finally accept myself “as I am” took me 3 years. So I can understand it when someone is having difficulties accepting that they are living with HIV. I got to know my status in 2004; I was being treated at Newlands Clinic, where I got a cd4 count test with results showing I had 500 cd4 cells.

I was then initiated onto cotrimoxazole since these pills would help combat infections like TB, diarrhoea or shingles. I started taking ARVs in 2009 after having herpes on my stomach. In 2010 as Africaid-Zvandiri; we were awarded the Auxillia Chimusoro Award in recognition of Africaid’s perseverance through the “Zvandiri” program, by training HIV positive adolescents to encourage adherence to treatment and provide psychosocial support to their peers, we were extremely thrilled because the work we do was being acknowledged. The term “Zvandiri” was chosen by my peers, as we had seen that ‘this is what we are, we are living with HIV since the day we were born.’ From the grant that came with the above award, the Director of our organization, Mai Tadiwa, asked us what we wanted to do with it and we chose to produce a cd.

Since we are no strangers to singing and drama, we managed to produce a cd called ‘How to dance’ which made people ask who we were, what we do and why? We raised awareness about children born with HIV. Ba Shupi, a well-known Zimbabwean artist accepted to join hands with us in our work and was made Africaid’s brand Ambassador. Our cd has received airplay at international HIV/AIDS conferences, it was also used at ICASA and it is also available on YouTube under the same name ‘How to dance.’ In the midst of fighting stigma and discrimination towards those living with HIV, we have learnt to sing and dance in the storm! We are looking forward to a country with zero HIV related deaths, with zero stigma and discrimination and also zero new HIV infections. On this note we are saying we do not want to see children being born with HIV, this was the case in our time, when there was no form of medication, today we no longer want to see this. I hope to get married just like anyone else, I want a huge family-5 kids but I do have a boyfriend at the moment. I do not hide what I am and I am vocal about it and in turn people deny the fact I am HIV positive, they think I am lying but thanks to ARVs I am healthy.

In conclusion, this writer wept tears mingled with both joy and sadness because Africaid-Zvandiri has groomed and raised conquerors.

2014
By

Progress in Kwekwe

 

A total of 20 Kwekwe Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) were recently engaged in a successful refresher course. The fruits of the refresher training are already being realized as evidenced by progress made so far by the CATS in reaching out to other children and adolescents living with HIV. Soon after the training the CATS organized an awareness campaign at Mbizo 11 clinic in Kwekwe where they sensitized about 104 caregivers and adolescents on the importance of support groups in providing psychosocial support to children and adolescents living with HIV. The campaign which was initially intended for one day ended up being two days due to high demand from the community members. What moved most caregivers and other adolescents was the fact that the CATS themselves are living with HIV.

Kwekwe CATS posing for a photo with the District Administrator for Kwekwe.

Kwekwe CATS posing for a photo with the District Administrator for Kwekwe.

Some adolescents could not imagine that there are some young people who are living with HIV who are healthy and confident to the extent of providing support to children and other adolescents. Caregivers from Mbizo 11 catchment area with children on ART requested the clinic to provide space for support group meetings which was subsequently granted by the sister in charge. Another outreach is scheduled for Mbizo 1 clinic during the month of May.

During the training the CATS were linked with the District AIDS Coordinator for Kwekwe Urban Mr. Kombora who also attended the training. Two representatives were invited to attend the DAAC Stakeholders meeting on the 8th of May. Tafadzwa and Lissah attended the meeting and they were confident enough to present before the Kwekwe Stakeholders an update on what they are doing as CATS. All the stakeholders were amazed by the work being done by the CATS with support from Africaid. The CATS also presented the issue of user fees being charged by Kwekwe Council Clinics and the issue was taken up by the local authority for consideration.

 

2014
By

What a week!

 

Zvandiri crew on stage

Zvandiri crew on stage

As reported before, The Zvandiri Crew was to perform on stage exactly 2pm on the 30th of April and many were nervous as there was a huge turnout.

In the storm we've learnt How to Dance!

In the storm we’ve learnt How to Dance!

Their fears were put to rest as the American Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton, joined them backstage for their song and dance. During HIFA week, various non-profit organisations working towards the fight against HIV/AIDS showcased the different services they provide at the HIFA main venue, First Street, where they were sponsored by the U.S through The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR/Emergency Plan). PEPFAR has been in partnership with Zimbabwe for many years now.

b

Ambassador Bruce Wharton (grey suit) accompanied by Mr Manuel Bagorro (blue blazer)

2014
By

SAfAIDS position on miracle remedies

“Miracle drugs” could put the lives of people on ARVs at risk. http://www.safaids.net/content/stay-alive-and-healthy-%E2%80%93-take-your-arvs-not-%E2%80%9Cmiracle-drugs%E2%80%9D