I am pursuing my dreams despite my HIV status: Maximina Jokonya
In 2004, her health deteriorated to a point where she was usually bed-bound and the hospital became her second home.
“I fell very sick in 2004. During that time, I could not walk and I was in and out of hospital as a result of different sicknesses,” said Jokonya.
She then got to know about Africaid Zvandiri in 2005 and was initiated on antiretroviral therapy treatment (ART) in 2006 at Newlands Clinic and since then her health has greatly improved.
“I got to know Africaid Zvandiri in 2005. The organisation has shaped who I am today,” she said.
“My family and the community have shaped my life to not only develop a passion for working with children, adolescents and young people who are infected and affected by HIV and TB co-infected, but to live an exemplary positive life for the community to embrace interventions and to shun stigma and discrimination.
“Even if you look at me now, you cannot even tell that I am HIV-positive because I adhere well to my medication. I am pursuing my dreams despite my HIV-positive status.”
ART and social support have given her hope as she now leads a normal life that has become an inspiration to her peers.
Jokonya has moved from being a beneficiary and she is currently working for Africaid as the Zvandiri mentor for Mutare district.
“I work with children, adolescents and young people living with HIV, making sure that they have full access to treatment, care and support through community-based approaches, resulting in them attaining happy, healthy fulfilled lives,” she said.
Jokonya believes that she was born for a purpose. She managed to turn her pain into passion and it has driven how she works every day to improve the lives of children, adolescents and young people living with HIV.
“My aim by disclosing my status was to make other adolescents who are out there and looking down upon themselves know that they have a right to be healthy and they can achieve so much in life,” she said.
“The best thing is that HIV is not in our brains and we are able to dream big and achieve the best in life. My aspiration in life is to see young people, particularly vulnerable orphans and those living with disabilities, leading happy and healthy lives regardless of their HIV status.”
Through her desire to learn about HIV and find ways to help communities, Jokonya was incorporated into the University of Zimbabwe-University of California San Francisco (UZ-UCSF) collaborative research programme in 2007 as a community advisory board member, as well as into the community delegation to the Global Fund. She is also one of the Women Deliver Young Leaders as well as a Mandela Washington Fellowship member, among many other representations.
Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she is planning to continue working with Africaid Zvandiri in the field of HIV and Aids, improving on innovative ideas, strengthening community systems and developing research gaps on how to end Aids by 2030.
Africaid is a community-based organisation in Zimbabwe, which is committed to helping HIV-positive children, adolescents and young people to develop knowledge, skills and confidence to cope with their HIV status and to live happy, healthy, fulfilled lives. Through its Zvandiri model, Africaid provides differentiated care for HIV-positive children, adolescents and young people through community-based health services, psychosocial support and care, training and advocacy. These services are integrated within the clinical care provided by government and private clinics. This integration creates a robust continuum of care for children and young people with HIV and aims to improve their access to HIV-testing services, linkage and retention in care, adherence, psychosocial well-being, mental health and sexual reproductive health.