The thought of going to school made her feel uncomfortable. Her peers called her names and she had no option but to withdraw to her mother’s house. Tadi* now 16 years lived a miserable childhood she could hardly hear – her ears oozed puss every day of her life. Being a double orphan, her caregivers could not afford the prescribed medication. Her situation only changed the day she met Moreblessing, Zvandiri Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CATS) for Hatcliffe in Harare.
Tadi had a difficult time growing up, having to accept her HIV status and at the same time manage the discomfort caused by her painful ears. “I never enjoyed my childhood. I could only stay indoors because of the severe pain and discrimination from my peers. Communication was difficult as I could hardly hear what people said and there was no one to teach me sign language; my caregivers struggled to make ends meet”, said Tadi. Although she was determined to pursue her education, her condition affected her performance as she could not hear properly: “I thought my future was doomed, I felt there was no hope for me to get assistance on my hearing impairment,” she said. “My aunt saw how I was suffering and decided to take me from Mutoko to her Harare home in Hatcliffe. Although I got all the other support from her, she also could not afford to pay for my treatment – I had to continue living with the pain!” Her aunt however encouraged her to join support groups at Hatcliffe clinic where she said Tadi would have the opportunity to interact with her peers living with HIV and were also facing almost the same health challenges.
Hatcliffe HIV and Disability CATS offering adherence support
It was at the support group that Moreblessing met Tadi, “when she shared her health challenges with me at the support group, I quickly reported the case to the HIV and Disability Officer who referred her to Baines clinic where she got assistance from a doctor,” she said. Her aunt was pleasantly surprised and had this to say, “Doctors’ fees are beyond many of us in this country, getting someone to pay for them on your behalf is such a miracle.” The doctor at Baines clinic explained that Tadi’s eardrums had been damaged and needed to be repaired. She also had an infection which the doctor had to treat. Tadi explained, “I was surprised that after only a week of taking medication, the infection started to clear and I stopped putting cotton wool balls in my ears. The change is unbelievable; their assistance has changed the story of my life.” Tadi will continue to take her medication and go for constant review before the recommended eardrum surgery. She is however able to go back to school and pursue her dream of being a doctor. Her aunt is pleased that at home her niece is now able to assist her with household chores.
The pain is gone: Tadi assisting her aunt by doing household chores at home
“Moreblessing is now my close friend. She understands me better than everyone else and she supports me to adhere to my medication. I am now confident to interact with my peers and to pursue my dreams,” she said.
The story of Tadi demonstrates the impact which the HIV and Disability programme has on the lives of children and adolescents living with HIV and disability. HIV and Disability CATS workin 23 communities of Harare and have managed to identify a cumulative total of 1, 452 children living with HIV and Disability with 863 of them having impairments. The CATS make referrals and offer adherence support to their peers.
*not her real name