Scaling up critical HIV interventions in Chimanimani District

With support from UNICEF, and funding from the Swedish Government, Africaid is now on the ground in Chimanimani to provide critical community and health facility-based prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV positive children

Elizabeth Mupfumira
, Brigitte (22) a Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CATS)
UNICEF Zimbabwe/2019/Elizabeth Mupfumira

07 June 2019

When Cyclone Idai hit Chimanimani District, Brigitte (22) a Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CATS) was not directly affected, but her best friend Emma was not so lucky. “The landslides and flooding buried her home along with all her family’s belongings, including her Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and her medical documents,” she said. “I had to accompany her to the hospital to help her replace her ARVs and medical documents so she could continue taking her medication.”

Emma’s situation is very familiar in the Chimanimani District where an estimated 1,115 children and adolescents are known to be living with HIV, presenting an urgent need to upscale HIV prevention and treatment support in one of the hardest hit areas.

With support from UNICEF, and funding from the Swedish Government,  Africaid is now on the ground in Chimanimani to provide critical community and health facility-based prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV positive children and adolescents in the District. Africaid is present in all Cyclone affected Districts providing interventions such as preventing ART interruption through identification of those who have lost their ART or cannot access the clinic for ART re-supply; provision of specialized child /adolescent counselling to prevent the development of prolonged psychological problems resulting from trauma grief and loss; and outreach and home visits conducted by staff and CATS.

Before the Cyclone hit, Chimanimani was considered a low risk area, where minimal HIV interventions were required. In fact, there are currently only two CATS in the entire District.  However, the Cyclone emergency changed this, resulting in the rapid deployment of a team to assess, locate and support this vulnerable group.

Wisdom (16) was born with HIV and has been taking his antiretroviral drugs since he was a baby. Until two weeks ago, he did not know he was HIV positive because his parents had not disclosed his status to him. Africaid facilitated for his parents to disclose his HIV status.

With support from UNICEF, and funding from the Swedish Government,  Africaid is now on the ground in Chimanimani to provide critical community and health facility-based prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV positive children and adolescents in the District.

“This is a very common problem in Chimanimani District,” says Africaid Chimanimani Team Leader, Comfort Shava. “When we came into the District soon after the Cyclone hit, we found that many children have been taking medication every day without the parents or caregivers disclosing to them why they are taking the drugs. This poses a major problem for adherence, especially in an emergency setting like this.”

Wisdom lives alone during the school term in a rented room near his school, in Ngangu Township. When the Cyclone hit, the area around his house was damaged, so he left all his belongings and returned to his father’s house in Charleswood Village, 20 km away for safety. Because he didn’t know that the medication he was taking were antiretroviral drugs, he left them behind and began to skip taking his medicine. It was at this time that Africaid intervened and assisted Wisdom’s father to explain to his son why he was taking the medicines.

“When my father told me that I was HIV positive I was frightened and shocked, all these years I had been taking medication every day but had no idea why” says Wisdom. “Comfort helped me to understand what being HIV positive means and now I feel freer and much happier. I now understand how important it is for me to take my medication every day.”

When my father told me that I was HIV positive I was frightened and shocked, all these years I had been taking medication every day but had no idea why

 With the Africaid team now on the ground in Chimanimani, community members, including village health workers, social workers, teachers and parents/caregivers are being sensitised and educated to be responsive to the needs of children and adolescents with HIV and to ensure theyl continue to take their treatment/medicines and receive the necessary support.  They are also working to ensure that they continue with their adherence and receive emergency assistance shelter, psychosocial support and other interventions.

Wisdom
UNICEF Zimbabwe/2019/Elizabeth Mupfumira

“Comfort helped me to understand what being HIV positive means and now I feel freer and much happier. I now understand how important it is for me to take my medication every day.”

Wisdom, 16

Wisdom has now been connected to Bridgette for peer support who can continue to monitor, support and counsel him now that he is back in Ngangu for the new school term.

“It seems that my role in the community has become ever more important since the Cyclone. I am keen to help my peers as much as I can, and Africaid has really assisted me to be equipped to help,” Brigitte says.