Christian Aid partner the Churches Health Association Zambia (CHAZ) has been working in communities to build a support network for those living with HIV.
Zambia’s HIV rate is around 16% - a figure which classifies it as one of the most devastating HIV epidemics in Africa.
Despite antiretroviral drugs being available across the country, free of charge since 2004, those living in rural areas are often the poorest and struggle to have the means to access treatment. CHAZ have been working to bridge this gap.
Reaching those in need
‘Health workers from St Theresa’s Mission Hospital came to our community and our churches’ says Kelvin Mungandu from Kanyende village. ‘They told us there is a disease called HIV which has come in our midst…they asked us to be home-based carers, to look after the sick in our communities’.
Kelvin is one of many volunteers that have been trained by CHAZ, through the local hospitals that they support, to provide care in his community. From counselling, drug administration and tackling stigma , volunteers provide a service to those living with HIV who would struggle to access it elsewhere.
‘After the training, we would go around the community and encourage people who are sick to consider going for voluntary counselling and testing’ says Kelvin. ‘We would say “it is not necessary to hide and to feel shy about any illness, even HIV...help is available.”’
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Edward and Chamsa Mwila are two of Kelvin’s patients that have benefitted from this programme. After several years of being ill, but fearing the stigma associated with the disease, they were tested and were both diagnosed with HIV+. Kelvin began visiting them weekly.
‘I would like to thank Kelvin and the other members of staff at St Theresa’s mission hospital’ says Edward.
‘Those of us that have embraced ARVs are in a very better health condition than those that have not because of stigma. We also have a support group’.
Abel Mutiwa is another of CHAZ’s volunteers. At 62, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Abel might be content to relax at home, rather than be out visiting in his community. But this inspiring man has more important things on his mind.
One of Abel’s clients is Lucky, a young boy of just 8 years old. He doesn’t know yet that he is HIV+, something passed to him from his late mother. After losing his father to AIDS as well, Lucky moved in with his elderly grandparents, who struggled to look after him.
‘Lucky was continuously ill when he was growing up and we didn’t know what was wrong with him’ says his grandfather. ‘We only found out about his status 3 years ago when a test was done at St Theresa’s. I am very grateful to Abel and the team that look after him – without them we would not have managed’.
‘ I would like to thank Kelvin and the other members of staff at St Theresa’s mission ’ Edward Mwila
‘ I am very grateful to Abel and the team that look after him – without them we would not have managed ’ Lucky’s grandfather
‘ We would say “it is not necessary to hide and to feel shy about any illness…help is available”.’ Kelvin Mungandu
Lives have been changed
Across Zambia, lives have been changed as a result of the care shown by these volunteers. These inspirational people, who give up their own time and effort, are knocking down the barriers that HIV has put up.
As Abel Mutiwa says: ‘I help the clients to live positively, as being positive does not mean death anymore’.
More about Christian Aid's work on HIV
• Background: Our work on HIV, Malaria and health
• Audio slideshow: Faith leaders and HIV stigma
• Video: Stigma Under the Lens