Population Solutions for Health (PSH), formerly PSI Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), launched “Flip the Script”, a campaign aimed at enhancing HIV treatment literacy and promoting adherence to ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) medication amongst PLHIV.
By Patricia Mashiri
The campaign is currently being implemented in three areas, namely, Nyabira in Zvimba district, Marange in Manicaland and Luveve in Bulawayo. PSH and the Ministry of Health & ChildCare introduced the campaign during meetings with community leaders including traditional and religious leaders; health care providers and influencers from the three areas.
Insights from a research conducted with People Living with HIV, Health care providers and Influencers of People Living with HIV in Zimbabwe were used to inform core messaging for the campaign that seeks to communicate the benefits of ART medication to People Living with HIV and the broader community. The campaign further seeks to reposition ART medication as a symbol of well being.
Speaking at the Nyabira meeting, Mr. Nigel Kunaka, the PSH Marketing Campaigns Manager said that the aim is to reposition HIV treatment in a more positive light.
The objective of the campaign is to reposition ART as an enabler. We have heard people saying an HIV diagnosis is a death sentence or ART reminds them of their HIV status. It seems there still is stigma associated with an HIV positive status and taking HIV medication.”
“Flip the Script is trying to address this by letting people know that they can live the life they want by taking their ART medication every day. Ultimately, we are emphasizing adherence and we want to improve viral suppression rates among People Living with HIV across the country,” Mr. Kunaka said.
He added that, “Virally suppressed people have a better-quality life, they can continue living a normal life, doing things that they did before an HIV diagnosis, including an active lifestyle, having children, marrying and many other things.”
In a presentation during the Nyabira meeting, Sister Dadirai Bwanya, Nyabira Clinic Sister-in -Charge shared ART adherence challenges in the local community.
“The challenge we are facing in the community is adherence. Some people are failing to take their ART medication on time from the clinic with some citing that they live far from the clinic. The other challenge is disclosure. Most people are failing to disclose their status to their partners.” Sister Bwanya said.
Mr. Ranganai Masinde, a Male Behaviour Change Community cadre hailed the initiative by PSH which he said will help improve the health-seeking behavior amongst males in the Nyabira community.
“I work with males in the community and I have noticed that it is hard for them to seek help regarding their health. They prefer to use herbs than going to clinics and hospitals. There is a need to spread the message of how ART is good for anyone living with HIV. Most males are not prepared to disclose their HIV status to their partners and this leads to them taking medication in secret which has in some cases led to defaulting and even death due to lack of treatment,” Mr. Masinde said.