Treat All initiative: All HIV positive adolescents & young people to get on treatment

Mutare | Recently, Africaid in partnership with Organisation for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID) participated at this year’s 9th edition of Jibilika Dance Festival which was successfully held at Meikles Park with support from United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Africaid had the prerogative to sensitise adolescents and young people about the Treat All initiative through Diamond FM to about 1000 people who were enthralled by music and dance which was provided at the scene.

Young people from Jibilika Dance Trust providing edutainment at the cypher HIV awareness campaign through dance and music in Mutare

Treat All initiative allows all HIV positive people to get on treatment regardless of their CD4 count. As a recommendation from the previous Treat All meetings which have been conducted, Africaid was tasked to sensitise adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe about the Treat All initiative using adolescent-friendly and peer-led innovative interventions.


Africaid engages in HTS discourse with adolescents and young people through sports

Harare| Africaid in collaboration with World Education Inc/Batwana (WEI/B) reached adolescents and young people between the ages of 10-24 years with information on Sexual Reproductive Health particularly the importance of HIV Testing Services (HTS) at Children’s Sports Tournament which was held in Harare. The sports tournament was held under the theme-: “No test, No fame, Get Tested No Blame”. In an interview on the sidelines of the tournament, an adolescent from House of Smiles-an organisation which programmes on adolescents and young people living and working on the streets said young people have the right to know their HIV status so that coming up with a generation of adolescents and young people that are well conversant with health related issues specifically Sexual Reproductive Health will be viable. During the exhibition, Africaid reached 81 adolescents (40 boys and 41 girls) with HIV prevention, care and support information.


Newlands Clinic in Zimbabwe: changes lives for young people with HIV

Born with HIV and living on the streets in Zimbabwe is a double challenge to say the least, but this was the situation for Anashe* who was orphaned in 2007, when he was 12.

He used to socialise with a cohort of five adolescent boys whom he considered close friends, but even so he did not disclose his HIV status to them until 2010.

Finding food was a major challenge for Anashe. He used to beg on the streets or look for left-over food in restaurant litter containers. “My friends and l used to wake early and deploy each other to different places. After an hour or so we then returned to the base with some food, which then we shared but this was not easy at all,” he said.

According to the Zimbabwe National HIV & AIDS National Estimates 2013, the HIV prevalence rate among adolescents and young people between the ages of 15-24 years is 5.31 per cent. Adolescents and young people living with HIV have many unmet needs, and in some places, efforts to support them are making a real difference.

Newlands Clinic: support where it’s needed

In Zimbabwe, if you collect medication from a local clinic you are supposed to pay $1 as an admission fee. However, Newlands Clinic in North East of Harare Metropolitan Province offers HIV prevention, counselling, treatment, care and support services entirely free of charge. This is made possible through the mother organisation of Newlands Clinic: Swiss Aids Care International, funded by donations and by contributions from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Matthias Widmaier, Newlands Clinic country director, said: “HIV therapy is free for Newlands Clinic patients. We provide HIV prevention, counselling, treatment, care and support to 5,700 under-privileged adults and children living with HIV and AIDS, particularly women, children and adolescents.”

Accessing HIV treatment became easier for Anashe in October 2009 when he started collecting his free medication at Newlands Clinic. Howver, the major challenge he encountered was a private and safe place to store his medication.

Anashe said: “I used to hide my medication on a nearby gate which was close to our base from 2007 because l did not want anyone to know my HIV status even my friends, in 2010 the caretaker then discovered that l have a tendency of visiting the same place often and that is how he got to know about my HIV status.” After this, Anashe decided to disclose his HIV status to his friends.

Extra support

Newlands Clinic offers additional support to patients such as food aid and payment of school fees if they need it. A vocational skills programme is financed by Swiss Aids Care International and carried out by Africaid Zvandiri. Here, HIV positive adolescents and young people are assisted to secure employment with an income to support them both now and in the future.

Anashe joined the Zvandiri Programme in 2013 and in 2014 he was trained to be a community adolescent treatment supporter. He was responsible for counselling and supporting a cohort of HIV positive children and adolescents who lived on the streets by visiting them where they slept and hung out on the streets. He identified any challenges they faced with adherence and traced those who were defaulting with their treatment. He also referred children and adolescents to service providers to deal with for possible opportunistic infections, treatment failure, child protection issues, psychosocial support and sexual and reproductive health needs.

In 2014, Anashe also joined the vocational skills programme where he trained as a painter and decorator at Harare Polytechnic College. He is now a professional painter.

In 2015, 1,803 children, adolescents and young people accessed a wide range of youth- friendly services from Newlands Clinic. The clinic runs a special adolescent corner (Zvandiri Centre) and this facility allows adolescents and young people to meet and share experiences. Peer counsellors offer further support by counselling sessions and specialised support groups.

Anashe said: “Newlands Clinic and Africaid’s Zvandiri programme alters my life through knowledge and skills which l acquire from them.”

In Zimbabwe, there is need for such clinics in all ten provinces so that adolescents and young people across the country can access friendly services. This will help Zimbabwe reach the UNAIDS ‘90-90-90’ target. This states that 90 percent of people with HIV will know their status, 90 percent of all living with HIV will receive antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral load suppression.



Adolescents with HIV-not to be left behind: Eshan & Alina

It was on an exquisite morning, the weather was as cool as a cucumber; the ground was filled with many adolescents both from Zvandiri and others from Harare’s oldest suburb Mbare community.

Driving in to the soccer ground main entrance l could see Zvandiri adolescents carefully marking out a soccer field.. One by one, the five a side soccer teams started to arrive – excited, young boys, 8-12 year olds from Zvandiri, proudly escorted by their coaches , their older peers also from Zvandiri. The teams were from Highfield, Mbare, Epworth, Dzivarasekwa, Kuwadzana and Budiriro.

Adolescents in the soccer pitch were thrilled when they set their eyes on Eshan, our organiser for the day, as he arrived in his blue “Chelsea” jersey. Eshan is a young football fanatic from the UK.

Despite all the strides from advocates, communities, policy makers and government ministries and youth serving organisations which programme on children, adolescents and young with HIV, this cohort is still vulnerable in many spheres of society including sports and other talent show activities like modelling. Talent, a 10 year old boy, stated “I love soccer but I don’t get a chance to play at school because we’re told we can’t because of our status”

Playing sports helps one to stay in shape, teaches how one can organize his or her time, it boosts friendships, and builds relationships with peers. Due to high rate of HIV related Stigma among young people in Zimbabwe, adolescents with HIV have been sidelined in participating in different activities including sports due to suspected HIV positive status of which according to the African Youth Charter ,it is the right of every young person to participate in all spheres of society.

9 year old Eshan Mir envisions children, adolescents and young people with HIV living happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.

“When l thought of this activity l wanted to see true smiles of children and adolescents from Zvandiri , having a chance to play football and have fun.” says Eshan.

As a result of collaborative efforts from different slants the soccer tournament attracted many children and adolescents from Mbare community, they attended the tournament as spectators.

“I wrote an e-mail to my head teacher and he puts it in the news letter asking for soccer kits donations from school children, my mother’s friends then donated the Maruva football kit” added Eshan. The boys were so proud wearing their Man U, Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts!

Underscoring the sentiments, Alina Mir (11 Years), sister to Eshan mobilised resources for adolescent girls so that they can participate in a modelling contest as she deeply felt that the group need special attention for them to feel confident, valued and to believe in themselves.

“My brother was going to prepare a football tournament and l felt that l should do something for the girls so that they are not left out..” Says Alina

Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) who gave a hand in the coordination of this tournament were excited by this incredible opportunity which was granted to their peers.

“ Deeply from my heart l would like to thank the Maruva Trust team together with Africaid Zvandiri for organising this tournament, as adolescents living with HIV we also desire to be involved in different sporting activities and l would also like to thank Eshan and his parents for mobilising a full football kit for us.” says *Takunda.

Maruva Trust are individuals, families, schools, churches and communities in United Kingdom who have supported the Zvandiri Programme since day one, 12 years ago. There are children in Zimbabwe alive today because Maruva funded their medication when there was no other way to get treatment. There are children, adolescents and young people who have acquired their education because of school fees which they received. More than 1200 HIV positive children and adolescents have been able to attend support groups every month for the past 12 years because Maruva supported these support groups, we also have a cohort of children who can now see and hear because Maruva funded their glasses or hearing aids and many children who have benefited in many other ways.

*Name changed to protect identity


‘HIV is manageable in Zim’

By Samantha Nyamayedenga

In Zimbabwe, it is considered by some as “disease caused by promiscuity”

When I came to the UK in September 2015 to study at the University of Sussex, I was told that the HIV medication I was on, was not available, which was frustrating.

It was frustrating because instead of taking a single pill containing different antiretroviral drugs, as I had been doing at home in Zimbabwe, I now had to take three different pills a day.

I’m in the UK studying for a Masters in Development Studies and recently we had a class discussing on what role health plays in the interaction with citizenship. The main subject was HIV, and it was interesting to see the different assumptions people make because of the difference in prevalence in HIV between countries such as the UK and Zimbabwe.

Access to antiretroviral medication

In the UK in 2014, the adult rate of HIV prevalence was 0,19 percent (AVERT) compared to 16,7 percent in Zimbabwe (UNAIDS). Furthermore, in the UK 91 percent of HIV positive adults are on treatment compared to 63,4 percent in Zimbabwe (UNAIDS).

It is well known that poverty is a driver of HIV, and of course the UK and Zimbabwe have very different economic situations which can help explain the difference in HIV statistics. Everyone in the UK, should they need it, has access to antiretrovirals which is very unlike the situation in some parts of Zimbabwe.

In the UK in 2014, only 29 children were newly diagnosed with HIV and only three children were known to have acquired HIV from their mothers (AVERT). In Zimbabwe 6,6 percent of new HIV cases were from mother-to-child transmission (UNAIDS). However, it is fair to point out the rate of babies born with HIV in 2009 was 29 percent, so progress is being made.

Failings to deal with HIV

Despite the difference in access to medication between the two countries, I have observed that both Zimbabwe and the UK share the same failures in dealing with HIV. For example, there are barriers to HIV prevention in both countries due to stigma and discrimination and lack of HIV knowledge.

HIV is still associated with certain groups of people in the UK, who consider it “the disease of the gay”. In Zimbabwe, it is considered by some as “the disease caused by promiscuity”. Therefore many people living with HIV in Zimbabwe are not keen on disclosing their status for fear of being judged.

Even though HIV seems to be under control in both countries there is still a number of people who are not aware of their HIV diagnosis. In the UK 17 percent of people living with HIV are undiagnosed and in Zimbabwe only 30 percent of young people are aware of their status. The major drivers of these situations are the lack of knowledge and stigma.

Managing HIV

In our class discussion, many people said that HIV was only manageable in the UK and nowhere else, especially Africa. Even the person who led the lecture agreed with the rest of the students. I wanted to raise my hand and tell them that I disagreed.

I wanted to tell them that I am a person living with HIV from Zimbabwe who is doing well because actually HIV is manageable in Zimbabwe. I wanted to say that my immune system is very strong thanks to the structures in place there. I did not speak up because I was afraid of generalising Zimbabwe’s situation regarding HIV. The only proof that I could provide in arguing against my fellow students was my own personal experience which I was unprepared to share.

Had I been prepared enough in sharing my story it would have gone like this: My main concern is that taking antiretroviral drugs for the rest of your life can sometimes result in treatment fatigue. What happens if the quantity of drugs you need to take increases? Is this not demoralising? I have no problem with the combination of antiretrovirals that I am currently receiving in the UK. However, when I was told I needed to take combination therapy in three drugs instead of just a single I felt disheartened. From this personal experience I learnt that we should exercise caution and try to avoid generalising HIV as only manageable in the UK. — Key Correspondent.




Reaching adolescents with HTS Information using peer to peer mobile discourse

Africaid, in collaboration with UNICEF, have embarked on an innovative project with the aim of reaching out to adolescents in all ten provinces in Zimbabwe with HIV Testing Services (HTS) information including HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support through an innovative methodology (U-Report).

CATS demonstrating how they use the U-Report platform to UNICEF Chief of Communication, Victor Chinyama, at Zvandiri House ICT Lab in Avondale, Harare.

In March, Community Adolescents Treatment Supporters (CATS), managed to respond to 1 209 cases. U-report is a free SMS social monitoring tool for community participation, designed to address issues that the population cares about. Currently, the system has registered more than 10 648 adolescents and young people including girls and young women across Zimbabwe including those who are in remote areas.