Allen, Young Poet and RMT Volunteer
The Community Dialogue that Rozaria Memorial Trust held at Mazeyanike School, in Murewa, Zimbabwe, last week stressed the importance of addressing stigma and discrimination to support positive living in communities. The meeting attended by 56 people comprising of 7 village heads, representatives of churches (Methodist, Family of God, ZAOGA), Caregivers (trained by RMT & ZWAAPV), parents and guardians of Children Living with HIV (CLHIV), School heads and secretariat of support groups.
The Dialogue mainly centered on role played by community as a support system to People Living with HIV (PLHIV). Each and everyone in the circle of care gave ideas of how they could contribute towards care to the infected. The main issues faced by PLHIV in communities were:
- Stigma and discrimination against people who would have disclosed for example statements like “Ava vemapiritsi ava” (these ones on treatment!). At times people living with HIV are not given a chance to actively participate in some duties like catering at social gatherings.
- The meeting also raised a concern that hospital staff does not give PLHIV adequate time to express themselves when they go for reviews. They are often lectured to, and therefore do not have quality space and opportunity to share more information or get full emotional support
- Children living with HIV, especially those who are symptomatic are stigmatized by their colleagues within the school environment and on their way home. Awareness and programme to fight stigma should therefore reach out to all children in the school environment.
- Some village heads felt that all children having their school fees paid by organizations like RMT were supposed to be announced at village platforms like padare indicating the reasons why they have that benefit. The meeting rejected this request and recommendation because goes against laws and standards related to voluntary disclosure of one’s HIV status and with enough preparedness and support.
- Most of the churches related programmes in the area focus more on the affected families to enable them to provide the social support necessary.
Schools committed themselves to referring children they find having health relate problems to nearest hospitals and clinics. Churches also said that they will work hand in hand with other partners to improve the lives of PLHIV. The village heads stressed the importance of household food security indicating that they will support the RMT in expanding its maize production project which targets families affected by HIV.
Rozaria Memorial Trust runs HIV prevention, care and support programmes in 31 villages in Murewa, Zimbabwe reaching to more than 300 people living with HIV of whom 1/3 are children. RMT is working in partnership with the District AIDS Coordinating Committee (DACC), SAFAIDS, and AJWS.