By Hema Somai, Edited by Sunitha Eshwarlall
Towards the later part of 2011, we were approached by an organisation in Zambia, CIRDZ (The Centre for Infectious Disease and Research), which supports the Zambian Ministry of Health in their ARV scale up programme in four provinces of Zambia. They wanted to reprint My Living Positively Handbooks, to increase the involvement and awareness of HIV positive children in Zambia to HIV support groups and kids clinic rooms.
Zambia is reported to have one of the most devastating HIV and AIDS epidemics in the world (AVERT, 2010). It is reported that more than one in every seven adults in the country are living with HIV and AIDS. The epidemic has been particularly harsh on children in Zambia. In 2010 it was reported there were 120,000 children living with HIV and AIDS (AVERT, 2010). Furthermore, in 2009 it was estimated that of the 690,000 children that were orphaned, HIV and AIDS was responsible for contributing to more than half of that number. The rate of child sexual abuse increased rapidly over the recent years. In 2003 child rape was being fueled by the ‘virgin cure myth’ (which wrongfully claims that sex with a virgin can cure HIV and AIDS). The prevention of mother to child transmission programme began in 1999 and by the end of 2009 69% of expectant pregnant women living with HIV and AIDS were receiving treatment.
Understanding the situation of HIV and AIDS in Zambia and it’s particularly devastating effects on children and families made us very excited when the request came through. We were extremely eager at this prospect as well as knowing that the Handbook was seen as a valuable resource for children beyond South African borders. At the beginning of May 2011, we were informed by our colleagues in Zambia that they indeed printed 25 000 copies of the handbook! What an astounding accomplishment. The distribution of the handbooks began immediately following the printing to children attending HIV support groups. CIRDZ has also trained pediatric support workers on how to use the book themselves and how to show caregivers how to use the book as well. Having developed this relationship with CIRDZ has enabled us to understand that the HIV and AIDS epidemic is quite different in the various African countries across the continent however the similarities are stark in the way it has affected the lives of children and families.
AVERT 2010. HIV and AIDS in Zambia. (http://www.avert.org/aids-zambia.htm)
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