Takudzwa: l am not the only adolescent who is living with HIV
Harare| Takudzwa, a 19-year-old from Harare, never thought that he would be able to interact with other young people. Like most adolescents he wanted to hang out with his friends, to identify with them, and to feel a sense of belonging in his peer group. Like many HIV-positive adolescents, Takudzwa felt lonely, isolated, and afraid when he learned his status in 2016. He feared his peers’ response if they learned that he was HIV-positive, so he withdrew from social interactions and worked hard to conceal his antiretroviral (ARV) medicines. At home, Takudzwa’s siblings looked down on him and called him derogatory names, damaging his confidence and self-esteem. Although Takudzwa’s nurse advised him to carefully adhere to his treatment, he felt hopeless and began to default from his medication, weakening his health.
But Takudzwa’s life began to change in 2016 when he joined Africaid’s Zvandiri program. In support of Zimbabwe’s efforts to achieve its 90-90-90 targets (90% of HIV-positive individuals knowing their status, 90% of those who know their status receiving AntiRetroviral Therapy (ART), and 90% of those receiving ART achieve viral suppression)and with financial support from USAID and capacity building from Management Sciences for Health (MSH), Africaid is currently scaling up the Zvandiri model of differentiated care for children, adolescents, and young people with HIV. Takudzwa is one of 68,000
of Africaid Zvandiri’s beneficiaries from 24 districts in Zimbabwe.
Takudzwa’s nurse referred him to one of the Zvandiri program’s Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS). The CATS began visiting him at home to ensure he had adequate information regarding HIV and ART, as well as to provide regular adherence monitoring, counseling, and support. Receiving support from the CATS—someone who understood his experiences and needs—encouraged Takudzwa and motivated him to adhere to his treatment. During the home visits, the CATS interacted with Takudzwa’s siblings and caregiver, improving the support he received at home. The CATS attended Takudzwa’s clinic visits to follow up with him and to liaise with the clinic nurse regarding his progress. Takudzwa also attends the Zvandiri support group in his local community.
Today, Takudzwa adheres to his treatment and his health continues to improve. He now has a much more positive outlook on life and aims to be a lawyer to assist orphaned and vulnerable children.
“When l first knew my HIV status, l thought my dreams to be a lawyer were shattered. But because of peer support, l then realized that being HIV positive does not mean that l am going to die. Joining Zvandiri support groups has restored my high self-esteem and l learned that l am not the only adolescent who is living with HIV. At the support group we discuss various topics, and l now know more about HIV and AIDS,” said Takudzwa.