MDG progress slow…local activists inspire

Although it appears increasingly unlikely that the Millennium Development Goals for HIV and AIDS will be reached by 2015, the work of individual activists to empower those living positively continues to be a source of inspiration.

The government has highlighted HIV and AIDS as a priority Millennium Development Goal.
The government has highlighted HIV and AIDS as a priority Millennium Development Goal.

A consensus was reached at the last held United Nations High Level Meeting that progress on meeting the MDGs was slow. The government was challenged to identify and prioritise areas were results were being seen and the HIV and AIDS challenge was listed as one of these key areas.

Elizabeth Jambaya is just one example of how the commitment and passion of an individual to the cause of HIV and AIDS eradication can change lives.

Living proof

Christine Zvedondo was three months pregnant when she found out that she was HIV positive. Her husband left her and she suffered the rejection and stigmatisation of her community. Thanks to the support she received from Jambaya, an HIV positive activist, Zvedondo was able to get the help she needed to raise her daughter.

“Elizabeth (Jambaya) saw that all was not well with me. She is the reason I finally had the courage to get tested. She came with me and I couldn’t have done it without her,” said Zvedondo.

“I tested positive. At first, it was very difficult for me because I was pregnant. When my husband left me, I felt betrayed and devastated. Elizabeth never deserted me. She took me to the hospital when I was sick and she helped me apply for assistance from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.” Zvedondo is one of many women fortunate enough to be supported by Jambaya.

Open house policy

Nosta Mazama, who has been living positively since 2009, reacted badly to her test results.

“I locked myself in my house for a long time. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was stressed and couldn’t face the reality of my situation. My health deteriorated after giving birth to my child,” said Mazama.

“Jambaya kept pushing me to go for a CD4 count. She took me to the hospital and gave me all the financial and emotional support I needed.” Jambaya’s passion to help women living with HIV is driven by her own experience of contracting HIV. She has opened her house to women in difficult situations and she encourages them to continue working to support their families.

As a result of Jambaya’s investment, some of the women in the area have set up a support group called Long Life in order to learn more about HIV and AIDS. Several income generating projects have been birthed as a result of the group, including chicken rearing, sewing initiatives and cross-border trading businesses.

The HIV prevalence rate has continued to decline from 23.7 per cent in 2001 to 13.7 per cent in 2010. Though the decline is commendable, it is rather shocking to note that at the end of 2009, only 53% of HIV positive patients were on anti-retroviral therapy.

Gender inequality

According to UNDP Programme Specialist, Lisa Orrenius, gender inequality is one of the key factors impeding Zimbabwe’s attainment of MDGs.

“There is gender parity in primary and secondary school in Zimbabwe. Fewer girls make it to tertiary level and more girls drop out of secondary school than boys,” she said.

In light of this, it is important to highlight the sacrificial work of people like Jambaya who work hard to encourage and empower women living with HIV and AIDS in their communities.

While the government works out ways to prioritise the MDGs where progress can be made, they also need to find ways to equip activists working at a grass root level.

Post published in: News

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