Parents Support Each Other and Kids With HIV
July 20, 2009, —
Taking care of a child living with HIV can wear a parent
down. Clinic visits never seem to end. There is never enough food to fill
everyone's bellies. And money on hand never seems to cover all the
transportation costs and other daily expenses. But when you have 26 other women
supporting you, the burdens lighten.
Debbie DeVoe, Catholic
Relief Services' regional information officer for eastern and southern Africa,
sat down with members of the Kubatana ("Unity") Support Group in
Mufakose township outside of Harare in Zimbabwe. The group was formed in early
2009 with the support of Catholic Relief Services' local partner, the Child
Protection Society, and with funding from the Royal Netherlands Embassy. The
women meet weekly to talk about their problems and share solutions. They also
receive training every few months on topics such as good nutrition and the
importance of taking HIV medication as directed (antiretroviral adherence). By
coming together, these mothers and guardians are helping their children live with
HIV while breaking down barriers across their community.
- Debbie DeVoe:
- What do you like about being in a support group?
- Nyarai Pinduka:
- The problems that I face with my children are different from
the problems others may have. When we come to the support group, we can share
our problems and discuss how we can care for our children. I've learned a lot
about issues related to caring for children living with HIV, including
- Beauty Kidado:
- I learned about [antiretroviral] adherence and the
importance of giving medication to children at specific times. I also learned
that certain medications may cause side effects, like numbness.
- What are your biggest challenges?
- Christine Shamu:
- Mostly I don't have enough money in my pocket to get to the
hospital. It's far away and expensive to get there.
- We have problems with blankets and clothes—keeping our
children warm. We also need more food. These children eat so much.
- Jepheta Matope:
- Some of our children's performance at school is down, and
paying the school fees is a challenge.
- Elizabeth Kowosa:
- I have my brother's child, but I don't have the money to
send him to school.
- I'm surprised to learn that most of you are so open
about your children's HIV status and your own status. Do you or your children
face any stigma or discrimination?
- Monica Mashingaidze:
- When my family learned of my status, they didn't want to
touch anything I had touched, eat food I had prepared or wash any of my
clothes. Even when I'm sick, I still have to do my own laundry. I lost my
husband last year in October, so I don't have anyone to help me. Sometimes I
get help from the church, but sometimes if I'm hospitalized, I don't have
anyone to pay the bills.
- Stella Kandeya:
- My child is the one facing stigma. Other children noticed
she had a skin rash, warts on her face and was missing class. Now they won't
play with her. Initially she was sad about it, but after counseling and therapy
she's okay with it.
- In my family, no one discriminates against my child. They
share utensils, and they all love and care for the child. They'll even take her
to the hospital if I'm not there.
- Why do you think most of you don't face
- Because we've been trained, we share [our knowledge] with
- Other community members are reluctant to disclose their
status. We try to encourage them.
- Other people have come up to me and said they are scared.
They ask how I disclosed my status.
- Do you think that because you're open about your and
your children's status that other people lose their fear of HIV?
- All answering in unison: