|Zimbabwe’s HIV acceptance levels up|
|Wednesday, 07 March 2012 19:19|
Ms Tariro Mugodhi (40) sits on a couch watching television with her children.
The programme showing on ZBCtv is Positive Talk which discusses issues around HIV, Aids and TB.
In the middle of the discussion, Ms Mugodhi calls one of her children, 10-year-old Tatenda to bring her ARVs. The child acts obediently and brings the medication.
“The strides that have been made over the years by the community and organisations are phenomenal. Of late all stakeholders have become more involved in HIV and Aids awareness programmes that almost everyone, whether infected or affected now understands what it entails to live with the virus. The disease is no longer dreadful in the sense that many people have realised that it is manageable. What is only needed is a positive attitude and one can lead a normal life,” said Mr Zendakwaye.
He said the deliberate efforts made by a number of organisations involved in the multi-sectoral approach in response to the scourge could be the main source of the positive difference that people witness today.
Mr Zendakwaye said people accepted the existence of HIV and Aids right from voluntary testing and counselling.
“If we have a random testing site you would find that the attendance would be overwhelming and that alone speaks volumes on people’s readiness to accept their status and that translates to the high tolerance on PLWHAs.”
“So it is either one is infected or affected meaning that where you find people without the virus, they would have a relative living with the virus.
He said the advent of medication had brought hope to many people that they now lead normal lives and looked healthy.
“It is true that the “monster” that has been rearing its ugly head in our communities and workplaces is fast disappearing. Stigma and discrimination in my own perspective was there because of lack of knowledge as a result of limited access to information. The absence of rights-based approach also contributed significantly to discrimination of people living with the virus.
“Now there is improved access to correct information that the community is now aware of how PLWHAs should be treated. As if that is not enough they are now aware that these people have the same rights. We have cases that are in the courts where one member of a support group in Masvingo was ridiculed because of her HIV status and filed a lawsuit,” said Mr Mavundu.
“Nowadays people can be put on ART when they are still healthy and no one would notice whether the person is infected or not. That could be another reason why community has developed a shift towards PLWHAs. The rate at which people come out is also encouraging and this has also made the community to accept people as they are. Those with the virus have also realised that the life they are living is theirs and not someone else’s, hence their soldiering on without any regret.”
He said the improved situation has also been made possible by a number of advocacy crusades that were being done by HIV and Aids service organisations.
“Through these initiatives we are seeing the emergence of many volunteers who want to be involved in HIV and Aids activities despite their zero-status. The role of home-based care givers has been extended to peer counselling and the results are there for anyone to see.”
Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr Henry Madzorera said Government had made a good number of behaviour change programmes in partnership with other service organisations.
“Government through the ministry introduced many behavioural change and awareness programmes and people now understand more about issues to do with HIV and Aids. They are now aware that the disease is like any other ailment.” said Dr Madzorera.
He said the Government was on the right track towards achieving its target of zero stigma and discrimination by 2015.
However, the question on why people’s level of tolerance has improved cannot be answered by one response. There are a plethora of reasons, among them the robust awareness campaign that Government has embarked on, the coming in of other partners, disclosures by those with the virus, to name just a few,” he said.
A local pastor said the disease was regarded as one that did not affect the church, but now many church ministers are coming out with their HIV positive status.
many congregants believed. When people started to see pastors coming out, disclosing their HIV status the negative attitude towards those infected changed. With medication and the power of the Holy Spirit those who are positive are leading normal lives and some have assumed influential positions in churches and are not stigmatised but embraced,” he said.
The pastor said they also hold HIV and Aids awareness workshops as churches and that could be the reason why many Christians accepted PLWHAs in their midst.