Survival against all odds-The story of Siphiwe Sindisi

Around the year 2003, the HIV epidemic was a disease of unimaginable proportions both in trying to contain it and being diagnosed with it.

Being infected with the disease meant a condemnation to a life of isolation as the society as well shunned those who had the disease.

That was the very time, the late Siphiwe Sindisi, a registered general nurse based in Mt Darwin learnt of her HIV positive status when her husband died of the same disease.

This publication met up with Siphiwe, some weeks before her demise, and she gave us a heart rending story of her survival after her diagnosis.

” I tested positive for Human Immune Virus (HIV) 14 years ago and my life became a battlefield of which my biggest fear was death,” she said.

She was based in Bindura when she was diagnosed with the disease.

“From 2003 up to about 2006, I heard to stand toe to toe with the stigma surrounding the disease as I forced my way through the people’s hearts despite my status,” she explained.

She said the stigma she faced from her colleagues was just unbearable.

“The challenge for every positive person is to take back control of their lives, in living positively with the virus,” she said.

She said, gradually, her colleagues saw the voice of reason and they come to accept the situation as it was.

“I had always believed that good health was never maintained only by taking medication. More than ever, HIV reinforced for me that health is not just physical health, but also mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

She said she felt like a heavy load was taken off her shoulders when she finally broke her silence and openly disclosed her status to the wider world.

“It’s an important part of the healing process for me is to be active in HIV/AIDS education, support and advocacy.

The late Sindisa said she had taken an active role in a lot of HIV advocacy groups.

“I am in a number of support groups and a volunteer as well in a number of HIV/AIDS organizations, and in particular Positive Women, because the impact of HIV /AIDS on women is very different than from men,” she said then.

“I think it’s been the hardest for my family. I must be cautious about how my participation impacts on them, but slowly, slowly they have accepted the value of my contribution as an HIV-positive woman and health professional. It’s really important to break down the stereotypes about who gets HIV,” she explained.

“As a positive person, I want to make sure that HIV never happens to anyone else. We can’t prevent HIV by punishment, by stigma and discrimination.

She added that It is only through building a safe, supportive and caring environment, that positive people like me can be visible in our community, to educate and advocate, to take better care of ourselves and our families, she added.

More than 940 000 people are on antiretroviral treatment in Zimbabwe with more expected to be initiated following the adaptation of the new treatment guidelines.

The guidelines say anyone tested and found to be positive should be immediately initiated on ART regardless of their CD4 count.

Deputy Director for HIV / AIDS and STIs in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Tsitsi Apollo recently emphasized adherence as key in improving the level of protection.

“The county will use resources generated locally through the AIDS levy and external funding,” said Dr Apollo.

Zimbabwe is targeting zero new infections by 2020 and PrEP combined with other measures like circumcision are expected to play key role in the attainment of the target.

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