“I have disclosed my status to my community and to my family and we are living a normal life, people have accepted us for who we are and they even remind me when I forget to take my medication…”
By Daniel Phiri
THERE are close to 1.3 million people living with HIV/Aids in Zimbabwe and most of them face challenges owing to stigma attached to the disease.
However this stigma is based on misconceptions, myths and unverified beliefs and results in society looking down upon HIV/Aids infected people. Stigma has also resulted in many people developing a negative attitude towards testing.
Vangrista Nyambuya from Mutare who was diagnosed of HIV from as far as 2005 told a media workshop organised by the National Aids Council (NAC) that the only way to deal with stigma is through disclosure.
“There is need for disclosure in order to fight stigma and once you disclose your status the community will accept your condition and support you.
“I was the first to be tested and I disclosed to my husband, at first he was not supportive and after one year he finally agreed to be tested.
“I have disclosed my status to my community and to my family and we are living a normal life, people have accepted us for who we are and they even remind me when I forget to take my medication,” she said.
Nyambuya however disclosed that she faced hard times trying to tell their 16 year old son that he was born HIV positive.
“Before we got tested we had our son, he is 16 years old now and is HIV positive. I had a big problem trying to tell him, I just didn’t know the right time.
“But he kept probing me about the medicine he was taking and I used to tell him that it was for boosting his immune system.
“But one day he threatened not to take the medication and then I had to tell him and he cried a great deal, but as time went on and with counseling he accepted his condition and he is now part of a support group for other teenagers like him,” said Nyambuya.
Speaking at the same occasion, National PMTCT and Pediatric HIV care and treatment coordinator Dr Angela Mushavi said it’s hard for parents to disclose such bad news to their children.
“It’s a hard thing, parents try to shield their children from bad news, but you have to tell them at the end of the day.
“But you have to do it gradually and overtime, it’s also not good to delay telling the child because if you don’t tell them, they might hear it from friends or may relate the drugs to the disease for themselves,” she said.
Sister Frances Tsikai from Island Hospice concurred with Dr Mushavi, adding that the earlier parents disclose to their children, the better it becomes adding they should not lie about the drugs.
Meanwhile, Nyambuya has warned people living with HIV/Aids against abandoning their medication at the instigation of faith and traditional healers and prophets who have flooded the country, arguing that HIV has no cure and is a medical condition.
“I don’t believe there is anything like being cured of HIV/Aids by prophets basing on my relationship with the doctors since I discovered my condition.
“I urge those on drugs to continue and disregard these prophets. Dumping medication has serious problems as there are chances of becoming resistant to medication,” she said.