Unemployment is the most universal challenge faced by young people in Zimbabwe due to the socio-economic collapse, young people in Zimbabwe constitute more than 60 percent and the rate of unemployment is witnessed in the same group.

As a result of unemployment young people are indulging in various practices these include drug abuse, violence and crime, promiscuity leading to prostitution where they end up contracting and transmitting Sexually Transmitted Infections which can be injurious to their health.

According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2010/11 the HIV prevalence rate for young people between the age of 15-24 is 5.5 % and the majority of adolescents and young people living with HIV are orphans and vulnerable.

It is important to note that, because of HIV-Related Stigma in young people living with HIV, they are finding it difficult to be employed, even though they have necessary qualifications and skills.

In an effort to improve the socio-economic status of young people living with HIV, Africaid continues to offer vocational skills training and mentorship. This has been made possible through financial and technical support from Swiss AIDS Care International (SACI) in collaboration with Newlands Clinic. The project is a response to the critical need to assist young people living with HIV to secure gainful employment and an income to support themselves both now and in the future. The intervention targets young people with minimal academic qualifications.

Africaid Zvandiri Vocational Skills Training Programme Beneficiaries.

Africaid Zvandiri Vocational Skills Training Programme Beneficiaries.

“The Vocational Skills Training program is a pillar in the lives of beneficiaries; finally they have something to lean on in terms of their socio-economic aspects. Some might have stress because they do not have anything to put on the table but through this initiative they get an income which supports themselves and their families since some of them are breadwinners” said the Vocational Skills Training Officer, Mr Tonderai Rupiya.

Amongst the groups which were trained, a team of 3 young people (2 Females and 1 Male) from 2013 intake are implementing the skills they acquired from the Interior Décor Course.

Enock Tapiwa Mhembere (24), Roseline Gamuchirai Nyamuda (24) and Magret Bayiwota (24) are the beneficiaries from Harare who were trained under the Zvandiri Vocational Skills Training Programme.

“Before Africaid VST programme l used to stay with my guardian,l tried to look for a job but l could not find any.l got $10 and l looked for a place to rent in Mbare. I started to buy oil in bulk on credit and sale it in small containers.

“I was asked by Africaid about my life and l told them everything, they introduced me to the VST Programme where l was trained to be a professional in the interior décor industry.” said Enock Tapiwa Mhembere a beneficiary of the Vocational Skills Training Programme.

Many young people have gained confidence to stand amongst other people because of this initiative.

“As young mothers we have gained more experience since we were trained to do interior décor and we are now empowered and employed, things are hard but we can look after our lives and the welfare of our families.” said Roseline Gamuchirai Nyamuda,a beneficiary of the Vocational Skills Training Programme.

140 young people were recruited and trained by Hands of Hope Institute and Harare Polytechnic College. The young people completed courses in 12 different professional courses. 79%) of the students are now actively employed and / or running their own income generating businesses. As part of capacity building and mentorship support, business trainings were held in 2014 so that young people can have the requisite skills and knowledge to successfully run their businesses. The trainings were mainly focused on entrepreneurship, personal branding, financial literacy and bookkeeping.

It is of paramount significance to note that the Vocational Skills Training Program does not equip the beneficiaries with entrepreneurship skills only but all the young people who were trained now have high self-esteem.

“We want to thank those who helped us to be trained, as young people who were equipped with interior décor skills, we also want to train the next batch of adolescents and young people on interior décor .We also want to acknowledge Africaid because they helped us to discover our talents and they natured them, now we can stand confident in front of other people.” said Magret Bayiwota, a beneficiary of the Vocational Skills Training Programme.

Today, in the face of economic challenges the group members are now able to take good care of their families.


‘Adhere to Treatment & Pray for Good Health’: ADOLESCENTS & YOUNG PEOPLE

Many adolescents and young people are defaulting on treatment as a result of faith healing. Adolescents and young people should continue to adhere well to their medication even if they are told that they are healed from HIV.

Addressing hundreds of adolescents and young people at a youth group which was organised and supported by Africaid at Zvandiri Centre, Trisha a 20 year old girl encouraged adolescents and young people to adhere to their medication even if they are told that they are healed from HIV.
“What the religious healers are saying and doing is not right but adolescents and young people must take their medication and pray to God so that they can be healthy. What l can encourage adolescents and young people is to pray whilst taking their medication correctly and consistently” said Trisha.

“At my church if they tell me to do away with my medication l will not comply, what l know is that l should adhere well to my medication. I also participate in church programmes and even if l am the only man present at that time l will continue with my task despite my HIV status” said Madzibaba Michael a member of the apostolic sect and Zvandiri.

In an interview with Radio Zimbabwe, Africaid Zvandiri Programmes Officer Charity Maruva reported that adolescents and young people living with HIV face many challenges including stigma and discrimination, default on treatment as a result of faith healing among others.

“If adolescents default on treatment their health deteriorates and we have received many cases through our Community Adolescents Treatment Supporters initiative of adolescents and young people who are defaulting on treatment as a result of faith healing” said Charity Maruva.

She also added that Africaid works with different categories of adolescents and young people,some of them were born before Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission was introduced.

“The majority of adolescents and young people we work with as Africaid Zvandiri are accepting their status and some of them are in universities, some are getting married knowing that being HIV positive is not the end of the world.” she said.

According to UNAIDS, in the early 1980s when the AIDS epidemic began, people living with HIV were not likely to live more than few years. However, with the development of safe and effective drugs, HIV positive people now have longer and healthier lives. Currently available drugs do not cure HIV infection but they do prevent the development of AIDS. They can stop the virus being made in the body and this stops the virus from damaging the immune system, but these drugs cannot eliminate HIV from the body. Hence, people with HIV need to continuously take antiretroviral drugs. The use of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy has dramatically improved the quality of life for people with HIV and prevented them from dying early.

In line with the Guidelines for Antiretroviral Therapy for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV in Zimbabwe (2013), up to 52% of children die before the age of two years in the absence of any intervention. By five years of age as much as 75% of HIV positive children will be dead if they are not initiated on ART. The goal of ART for children is to increase survival and decrease HIV-related morbidity and mortality.


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.