Zimbabwe: US body helps communities fight HIV/AIDS

by Caroline Mvundura

HARARE - The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that it was working with local communities in Zimbabwe to combat HIV/AIDS in the southern African country.

Zimbabwe is among a few sub-Saharan countries to bring down HIV infection rates from more than 25 percent four years ago to 13.75 percent of the population, according to the latest available figures released last December.

But the pandemic remains a major killer in a country where the public health sector and the economy are still struggling to shake off the effects of a decade of recession and political strife.

Speaking from the remote north-western Binga rural district where the CDC was holding workshops for community volunteers providing HIV/AIDS support services, the organisation's deputy director for Zimbabwe, Gretchen Cowman, said the workshops were meant to help villagers cope with the disease.

"Our support aims to build capacity of provincial implementing partners who are themselves community AIDS service organisations and People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) support groups in the delivery of HIV related services and initiatives, to strengthen appropriate coping mechanisms among vulnerable groups," Cowman said.

The workshops in Binga and Victoria Falls targeted 30 home based caregivers and peer educators based in the Matabeleland North province.

The CDC working with local partners has also held similar training workshops in the provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland East, Midlands and in Harare.

During the Binga workshop training, participants went through sessions on understanding HIV and AIDS, counselling, nutrition guidelines, treatment issues, and handling disclosure. They discussed cultural issues affecting the prevention of the spread of HIV.

James Munkuli, a home based caregiver based in Kariangwe, 80 km south of Binga rural business centre, said in his village there was still a lot of stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, adding that local cultural practices and prejudices continued to present immense challenges to efforts to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the disease.

"Early marriages, wife inheritance (by male relatives of a man who dies living behind a wife), and resistance to the use of condoms are still challenges in the prevention of HIV in my district, but our peer education programs are beginning to bear fruit," said Munkuli, who heads a home based care group in Kariangwe.

Munkuli said he hoped to train 18 other caregivers from his area.

Munkuli and 80 other volunteers in Zimbabwe's six provinces will undergo similar training in the future until they attain level three training certification.

At this stage, he and the trainers will be able to implement a holistic HIV management methodology that entails nutrition counseling, psychosocial support through counseling, stress management, ART adherence, and alternative therapies. - ZimOnline.