BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, 23 October 2018 – Young mothers and new friends, Zelifa Dube (20) and Melisa Mpofu (19) both dropped out of school in their early teens. They live in Plumtree, a small agricultural town in southwestern Zimbabwe, on the border with Botswana. At 85 per cent, poverty prevalence in the community is rife and the incidence of teenage pregnancy and HIV infection is high. Zelifa and Melisa first met and bonded at a UNICEF-supported Young Mentor Mother training workshop in Bulawayo, designed to provide enhanced care and support for vulnerable pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent and young mothers living with HIV and their HIV exposed babies.
Born with HIV, Zelifa has struggled her whole life to accept her status. “I was only ten-years-old when l was told l was HIV positive and l had no idea what that meant, until the Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CATs) training. l used to think ARV [anti-retroviral] pills were for a headache,” she reminisced. “l now know what adherence is, and l am aware of the medication I am taking.” In order for Zelifa and the rest of the young mothers to participate in the YMM training, they had to have trained as Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CATs). The CATs programme is a model of differentiated service delivery for HIV positive children and adolescents which is led by trained, mentored HIV positive adolescents and young people. The YMM intervention layers on to the existing CATS implemented by Africaid a local NGO.