Nicola goes to PATA, Cape Town

Nicola at PATA with clinic teams from Zimbabwe (Newlands Clinic, Mpilo Hospital and UBH)

This week, Nicola is joining the Newlands Clinic Team at the Paediatric AIDS Treatment for Africa (PATA) Forum in Cape Town, South Africa. Clinic teams from across Southern Africa and Nigeria are present and themes for the week include “The Cascade of Care”, “Disclosure” and the “Management of Co-infections” in children with HIV. Nicola has taken the opportunity to lobby for viral load testing in children, stating that “whilst we applaud ourselves for getting so many children on to ARV treatment, there is an international emergency, where the same children and adolescents are failing treatment. Yet we don’t know this until they present with clinical failure when it is often too late and they are dying. We need access to viral loads so that we can identify children who are failing treatment early”. She also advocated for the need for governments to really consider policy which advocates for early disclosure of HIV status to children with HIV. This is particularly important to support health workers through the common scenario where families are not willing for their children to be told their HIV status yet it is clearly in the best interests of the child to do so. The Government of Zimbabwe has developed very clear policy and guidelines on this issue which could assist other countries thinking through the same issues


Happy 10th Birthday Maruva Trust

In 2002, two HIV nurses (Nicola Willis and Marcus McGilvray) set off on an overland trip from Northampton England, to Accra Ghana, with the goal of supporting communities to establish sustainable, effective responses to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for children and adolescents in different countries in Africa. They constructed Jisonayili Youth Clinic / Centre in Northern Ghana which still continues today – 10 years on – and the training tools and approaches they developed in South Africa continue to be used in different parts of the world.

In 2004, Nicola and Marcus went their separate ways to focus on the needs of children and young people in two very different settings – Marcus set up Africaid in South Africa and his hugely successful “Whizzkids” programme and Nicola established Africaid as a local organisation in Zimbabwe where she founded the award-winning “Zvandiri” programme

Nicola With Nancy and her new hearing aid from Maruva

And what a journey it has been! Years filled with joy, pain, and challenges but all in all it has been worth every moment. Africaid and the Zvandiri programme would not be in Zimbabwe today without Maruva Trust. People ask “what is the difference between Africaid and Maruva?” Well Maruva is the individuals, the families, the schools, churches and communities in the UK who have supported our work since Day One, ten years ago. There are children in Zimbabwe alive today because Maruva funded their ARV drugs 8 years ago when there was no other way to get treatment. There are children with HIV whom have an education because of the school fees they received. There are 1200 HIV positive children and adolescents whom have been able to attend a support group every month for the last 8 years because Maruva supported these groups. And children who can now see and hear because Maruva funded glasses or hearing aids. And so many other children whom have benefited in many many other ways.

Thank you Maruva! And particularly to the three ladies that really are Maruva – Jo, Claire and Jules. Thank you, Thank you.

Children in Hatcliffe Support Group singing “Happy Birthday Maruva”

We will be celebrating this 10th anniversary in different ways over the coming year including the Maruva Ball in March (Please do join us!), a climb up the highest mountain in Zimbabwe with the children of Zvandiri in April and then the launch of our new film, “Zvandiri”  in the new Year.  But the celebrations kicked off on Saturday right where we started our work, in the communities with the children in their community support groups. 600 children with HIV across Harare tucked in to birthday cakes with the words “Happy 10th Birthday Maruva” on them. We were joined by Kathleen Ferrier, a Member of the Netherlands Government, and UNICEF, who were visiting Africaid that day. It was a great way to celebrate both the birthday of Maruva and World AIDS Day.