Fighting for AIDS rights through the arts

The AIDS Arts Foundation Zimbabwe has embarked on a crusade to raise awareness of basic health rights for people living with HIV and AIDS.

In an interview, the Foundation’s director, Emmanuel Gatsa, said poor public relations in public health institutions necessitated the campaign.

“Health service providers are doing a shoddy job in educating patients on how antiretroviral drugs work and why they switch drug combinations,” he said. “Three-quarters of people with HIV and AIDS in the country are ignorant of why they are put on certain combinations.”

Gatsa said his organisation was targeting marginalised communities such as Calidonia Farm, Hatcliffe Extension, Hopley, Epworth and Tongogara resettlement areas.

He said the government resettlement system did not have follow up programmes to help people get access to health and education institutions.

“We provide edutainment to people living in these low income areas, looking at health matters through drama, songs and poetry so that when they go to clinics they know how to stand up for their rights.

“In Calidonia we lobbied for a satellite clinic, which was set up by Médecins Sans Frontières, to assist mainly people with HIV and AIDS,” he said.

Taaf-Zimbabwe also follows the national health calendar to raise public awareness on health matters such as Hand-Wash Day and TB Day.

Realising that health institutions were not patient-friendly, Taaf-Zimbabwe has also set up Health Centre Committees to represent people’s rights at health institutions in remote areas.

“Most health centres are intimidating for patients, so we set up four community members to be part of the health committee to be involved in health decision-making bodies, so that it becomes our programme for us,” he said.

The chair of Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV, Sebastian Chinhaire, said there was need for government to increase the nursing staff to create a friendly environment for patients.

“Our nurses are overwhelmed and too busy to talk to patients one-to-one, but issues of drug combinations and side effects vary among patients,” he said.

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