For International World AIDS Day on 1 December, our ICS volunteers in Zimbabwe have conducted four interviews within the communities that they are volunteering in showcasing strong individuals that are living with HIV. HIV is no longer a death sentence, with many people living with HIV all over the world leading a normal, healthy life. Here are their #storiesofstrength.
This story is based on the information given by Richard, a 46 years old male who is living positively with HIV in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
I was first diagnosed when I got sick and was feeling weak for some time, so I decided to go and see the doctor. The doctor advised me to get tested only to find out that I was HIV positive.
I felt so much anger rising up in me and I was so hurt. I didn’t know who or what I was angry at, but I just felt that way. As I went through counselling, I began to understand and accept it. What mainly calmed me down was that this was not a death sentence because I could get treatment (antiretroviral drugs) and live a healthy normal life, like everyone else, if only I would accept my status and follow through with the treatment.
Since being diagnosed, nothing much has changed. I can safely say that everything is still the same with my family and friends. At first I feared my status was going to affect my working life or cause me to lose my job, but my employers understood. I am still working well and they are supportive.
I really wish I had known all of the information I received during the pre and post testing counselling because it would have helped me come for testing earlier. I also wish I had known about condoms. Maybe I would not be where I am now.
I just want to let everyone out there know that ‘being positive is not the end of the world’. I am a very happy and healthy man today because I know my status and where I stand. Please, please know your status in time, go and get tested before you get sick, or it is too late. If you are positive, you can still live to an old age if you follow through treatment and eat healthily. The health service is doing a great job as we are getting our medication on time and they offer support in times of need. DO NOT BE NEGATIVE ABOUT BEING POSITIVE.
I was diagnosed in 2004 after a long chronic condition that started with dermatitis. The doctors told me that I couldn’t fight the dermatitis, which is why I was constantly in hospital. They tested me and I found out that I was HIV positive.
It was not that much of a surprise for me. I was already living with people who had been diagnosed, so it was as if I had been through the counselling before and now I just had to adjust to life with HIV.
Generally, it has changed my life, especially from the workers who come from families that do not accept people with HIV. When you open up to them they will often neglect you. But, as time has passed, it has become more systematic and part and parcel of your family.
I can say that nothing else has changed that much, except there is a high demand for good food and the need for a balanced diet, which we can’t always meet because of the economic challenges here. There is a strong need for a balanced diet, especially as I am also suffering from dermatitis, a chronic condition. You need to eat to retain nutrients in your body and that is part of the challenge you face.
People say that those who are living with HIV cannot live but you can live and live and live for years.
But I want to say to addicts, those who are taking drugs; you must stick to clean needles.
People with HIV, take your medicine at the right times and stick to it. Also especially with food, you must have a balanced diet. You must carry on with your life and have courage.
As for Progressio, you must continue with your project. I think if you continue with sessions like this, this will help. It is just so good.
(Edwin is not the real name as the interviewee asked to remain anonymous.)
Interviews conducted by ICS Team Simukai Urban, in Zimbabwe
Jesman is a 36 year old shopkeeper in Manhanga, who is HIV positive.
I was diagnosed in August 2012. I was not comfortable, it stressed me. I feel I had the information before about HIV, but I was confused about how I transmitted the virus. But with time, I accepted it. This was to be my new way of life.
Since being diagnosed everything has been normal, nothing has changed for me. I took counselling and advice from nurses at the rural hospital which helped me. I also live with my parents, they accepted my status. I have not experienced any stigma or discrimination.
Beulah, is a 55 year woman, who was diagnosed in 2012.
Before being diagnosed Beulah was feeling dizzy, weak in the body and had symptoms like malaria, so decided to go to the hospital. When she found out about her status she couldn’t accept it, it made her feel worse than before.
In the hospital, they suggested she should go for counselling. She was stressed. Beulah started then to accept her status after three months.
After being tested, Beulah began the ARV treatment but she did not respond and so had to change to a different treatment, and from then she became stronger. She feels it is important to get tested so that you know which diseases are in your system and how you can be treated for them.
People can sometimes laugh at people who are HIV positive, without knowing that tomorrow they could be HIV positive.
Interviews conducted by ICS Team DOMCCP in Mutasa District, Zimbabwe