By Michelle Moore, HIV and Gender Team
To mark World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (21 May), we look at the work of activists in Zimbabwe, who are speaking out on the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.
Under-provision of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), coupled with high levels of stigma and discrimination remain a significant barrier to people accessing vital treatment for HIV in Zimbabwe, especially in rural areas.
Trócaire and our partners Batanai HIV and AIDS Service Organisation (BHASO), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Zimbabwe Network of PLHIV (ZNNP+) are working with activists to organise district and provincial advocacy teams to negotiate improved access to treatment care and give support on the many other issues that affect their lives with HIV.
One advocacy team who meet regularly at Magombedzi clinic in Masvingo province have experienced discrimination. Some of the members used to provide entertainment at weddings, but because of their HIV status were hired less and less.
This has not stopped them though. Florence Ganye leads the advocacy team who continue to compose songs that help audiences and communities to realise the issues they are facing.
Magombedzi advocacy team, March 2014. Photo: Michelle Moore
“Our messages are of great importance so that issues can be deep-rooted at grassroots level. We hope that come 2015 maybe no children will be born with HIV because the information will be shared. The future is very bright because we are there in the communities acting as role models and there are more people going to the health centres because of this situation,” says Florence.
In another part of Masvingo province, Nobert Madzinire and Janet Zinyongo work as Community HIV and AIDS Support Agents (CHASAs) at Chinkiya Rural Health Centre. They assist people living with HIV at the clinic and visit communities to share their knowledge about treatment.
“The work… gives us the opportunity to go deeper at support group level and gives us the advantage of meeting more people and also for us to become known as support agents” says Nobert.
These ordinary people are providing the voice and dialogue of reason and advocacy in community health care and development issues, working for the betterment of their welfare and the health concerns of the district in which they live.