‘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.


Advocacy Weekend

The Advocacy team

Once again the team met on the 24th of November, 2012 for updating each other on various issues in regards to advocating for children and the voiceless among adolescents and teenagers. As you already know that the team comprises of members from various cities in Zimbabwe- Mutare, Gweru, Murambinda, Norton, Kwekwe and obviously Harare. Members from Mutare, Murambinda fall under Manicaland team, those from Gweru as well as Kwekwe fall under Midlands team and Norton plus Harare make up Mashonaland West team.
There was a case in Manicaland concerning forced marriages which included children as young as nine years old being married off to old men. As the advocacy team in Manicaland, they decided to stand up for the victims and the case is currently in the social services. Mashonaland West team managed to visit the Ark of God orphanage which is located in Norton. The objective of their visit was to see if there were any cases of stigma and discrimination labelled against the residents of the orphanage and also see what they were doing for those children born with HIV/AIDS. The visit proved an insight to the team. The Midlands team scored a major victory when they were granted permission to hold their support group meetings at Mkoba Poly Clinic after having the go ahead from the Director of Health for City of Gweru. All teams cited the need for more communication from their own team members and the other advocacy teams so as to share ideas and just to update each other.
World AIDS Day which is held annually on the 1st of December is already around the corner and the teams have planned for the activities to be held on the said date in their various communities. In Harare they have joined forces with National Aids Council of Zimbabwe(NAC) for The Day and have organized for the posters and fliers to be distributed on that day, in Mutare they will be joining Youth Alive in commemorating the day at St Joseph Hospital in Chikanga, and also still in Manicaland, in Murambinda they are having a joint venture with the Young People`s Network on HIV and AIDS. The Midlands team will host the day in their different towns and celebrate it with joy.
The World AIDS Day, to most of us this year concerns stigma and reaching out and shunning it and hopefully burying it, a world free of stigma channeled towards HIV/AIDS victims is a world we are hoping to see very soon and IT BEGINS WITH YOU AND ME.


Launching of both the Standard National ASRH Manual for service providers and the National ASRH Coordination Forum

We as Africaid attended the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) Conference held at the Rainbow Towers, in Harare.
The objectives of the conference included:
-The distribution of the National ASRH Strategy: 2010 – 2015, as a follow up to the launch.
-Launching the Standard National ASRH Training Manual for service providers to ensure its visibility.
-Launching the National ASRH Coordination Forum so as to guarantee its visibility and decentralization.
-Advocating for strengthened commitment towards the integration of SRH and HIV programming for young people as well as strengthening the role of adolescents, parents/guardians, communities, religious sector and civil society in ASRH.
From the various presentations displayed, it revealed that there is lack of knowledge amongst us as young people in terms of unwanted pregnancies, circumcision, STIs and HIV and more so for our rural counterparts.
The adults present acknowledged that adolescents and young people were engaging in sexual activities instead of running away from such issues. They claimed that there should be services put in place to carter to their SRH needs. To ensure a constructive atmosphere for our young people there should be “youth- friendly corners” were young people can go to, be it for information on sexual reproductive health or talking to someone, without facing criticism from the service providers. Places where we as young people can relate to and be free to talk about anything and everything.
The issue that some people think circumcision provides 100% protection against HIV, which then makes them have more than one sexual partner, was raised, too. 100% protection is not the case, circumcision just reduces the risk of getting infected if you limit to one uninfected partner, which is different from being immune to the virus.
The conference was a success mainly because young people were involved in such a landmark strategy. As Mr Yemurai Nyoni (National Young People’s Network on SRH – HIV) noted, if anything is targeted to help young people and adolescents, it has got to involve them as “Anything for us without us, is against us”
So listen to us, for decisions made today will affect us in the not so distant future!