|© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2005/Singizi|
|Pauros (left) is HIV-positive and is visited by Loveness, one of Zimbabwe’s many UNICEF-supported home based care volunteers.|
By Tsitsi Singizi
CHITUNGWIZA, Zimbabwe, 19 December 2005 - Pauros is one of millions of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe who goes without antiretroviral drugs. Instead, he finds solace, if not health, in one of UNICEF supported home based care workers, Loveness.
She visits him every week in Chitungwiza, 30 kilometers southeast of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. On the day of her visit, Pauros lies emaciated under his blankets. As Loveness checks him for bedsores, the camaraderie between the two is instantly apparent: she cajoles the 40 year-old and asks after his condition since her last visit.
“I am not feeling well, but Gogo’s (Loveness) visits are the highlight of my week,” says Pauros. “She counsels me and makes sure I access food relief. Gone is my initial hopelessness and depression.”
UNICEF’s team of community home based care workers in Zimbabwe now number more than 2,000. Across the country the volunteers visit the homes of HIV-positive people, nurse them, assist them with chores and family matters, and offer psychological comfort and support. In the past fortnight UNICEF has trained more than 100 additional home based care workers for key areas such as Hopley Farm, Kariba, Victoria Falls and Mufakose.
On the other side of the municipal town, another home based care worker, Vivian, volunteers her time. Three times a week she visits households orphaned by AIDS as well as children living with HIV. Sixteen-year-old Terence Bonde is one of 50,000 Zimbabwean children who head their household. He and his two younger siblings look to Vivian as a surrogate parent. “Aunty Vivian talks to us about our loss, fears and our hopes, she supports my love for soccer and helps my brothers with their homework. Our lives are better because of her,” says Terence.
“It is encouraging to note that in the face of enormous odds, individuals and communities are rallying to aid one another to ease the burden of AIDS,” said UNICEF Representative to Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe. “These home based care workers are an inspiration.”
A partnership between UNICEF and organizations such as the Zimbabwe Red Cross, the Home Based Care program recently received a boost when World Food Programme began providing the volunteers with food for their clients.
But as Loveness and Vivian constantly say, their work would be so much easier if their clients had antiretroviral drugs. Compared to other persons living with HIV in the region, he receives the lowest donor support in southern Africa at US$4 per year, while a person living with HIV in neighboring Zambia receives US$184.
Whatever the reasons for the difference, the disparity is deadly.