Farewell Madiba!

by Joshua M. Dziba, PhD | HIV/AIDS|Zimbabwe Charity, INC.

July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013

July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013

HAZ honors and celebrates the life of Nelson Rolinhlanhla Mandela (Madiba).  Mandela was not a remarkable icon only for his well-known life-long fight for justice as well as social and economic parity for the people of South Africa,  but also for his fight in his later years, against HIV and AIDS.

Nelson Mandela died after a long fight against a persistent lung infection on Thursday December 5, 2013 at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa.  He was 95.

Having served as South Africa’s first black president following his release from a 27 year-long prison sentence in 1990, Nelson Mandela retired after serving only one term as South Africa’s president in 1999.  He went on to step away from public life in 2004.  In 2005 however, Mandela would step back into public life with a stunning announcement that his son had just died of AIDS.  This announcement would also mark the beginning of Mandela’s last leg of his long legacy of service, as he took on the lantern of an HIV/AIDS activist, fighting to curtail the spread of AIDS, and perhaps more significantly, fighting for children and orphans affected by and living with HIV/AIDS.

Mandela’s announcement and his subsequent work with HIV/AIDS would go on to change South Africa’s attitudes and official policies towards HIV/AIDS.

It is for this late work of Mandela’s that we particularly take a moment as HIV/AIDS|Zimbabwe Charity (HAZ), to pay special tribute to the life of the now late former President, Revolutionary, HIV/AIDS Activist and Father, Nelson Rolinhlanhla Mandela.  We thank you for your many sacrifices and for the many different ways in which you have touched uncountable lives not just in South Africa, or across the African continent; but also across the globe.  Rest in peace Madiba.  May your soul enjoy the many blessings earned from the inspiring and deeply compassionate life you lived.


Murambatsvina Two to hit HIV sufferers

by Richard Chidza | NewZimbabwe

Local govt minister, Ignatius Chombo.

Local govt minister, Ignatius Chombo.

THE government’s decision to embark on the demolition of illegal structures around the country which has been likened to the widely criticised 2005 Murambatsvina campaign, will hit HIV/AIDS patients hardest, rights activists have warned.

AIDS and Arts Foundation executive director, Emmanuel Gasa, urged the authorities stop the demolitions which were started in and around Harare last week.

“Tens of thousands were affected under Murambatsvina in 2005 but there was no follow up from authorities to find out what became of them, particularly on the issue of anti-retroviral therapy uptake. Most just defaulted and died,” he said.

Gasa told journalists in Harare that at least 11 per-cent of the estimated 700,000 people affected by the 2005 operation, which drew the attention of the United Nations, were on anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

“We lost a lot of people. About 6, 000 were on ART therapy at the time but of these only about 10 000 continued with their therapy after the displacements.

“These were unnecessary deaths and we are calling on authorities to deal with the victims of the 2005 clean-up campaign first before they embark on another destructive campaign.”

Just over half a million people are on ART therapy in the country with at least 1.5 million people living with the devastating condition.

He challenged President Robert Mugabe to honour his pledge to assist internally displaced people.

“It is inhuman for the government to just wake up and say they are destroying homes – however illegal the structures – without consideration to rights like health, shelter and such other social provisions. President Robert Mugabe signed the Khartoum Protocol in Uganda on internally displaced people,” the activist said.

Community integration advocacy group, Heal Zimbabwe, also condemned the new wave of demolitions.

“Any attempts to remove people without putting a clear mechanism in place to help those affected flies in the face of the residents’ rights to decent housing and shelter as espoused by the country’s Constitution, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the UN Charter,” the organisation said in a statement Thursday.

The group added that the effects of the 2005 campaign were still being felt by communities – eight years after the government unleashed a combination of police and the military to tear down homes in Zimbabwe’s urban settlements.

“If the demolitions are to go on, thousands of households are going to be affected, and hundreds of thousands of people will be left stranded without anywhere to sleep, any food to eat and prone to a number of diseases and even death especially as we head towards the rainy season,” the group said.

“The Government should have learnt from operation Murambatsvina and put in place mitigatory measures before this indiscriminate operation.”

According to rights activists, the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina, which purportedly targeted illegal dwellings and structures, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with no concern given to human suffering.

A report by UN habitat special envoy Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka condemned the clean-up operation but the Tanzanian was in turn lambasted by the government for allegedly being political.

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Many struggle to survive in “City of Gold”


Struggling to survive ... Mbizo Sibanda and his family outside their room at Durban Deep Hostel.

Struggling to survive … Mbizo Sibanda and his family outside their room at Durban Deep Hostel.

TOO weak to sit, or even hold up his head, Prince Sibanda is slowly starving to death. The baby is almost two but his tiny body resembles that of an infant of five months.

He is severely malnourished because his Zimbabwean parents, who, like him are both HIV-positive, came to the City of Gold to seek their fortune and found only hunger instead.

Not only has Prince failed to reach his developmental milestones – such as talking and walking – he also suffers from TB.

When Cora Bailey, the director of Community Led Animal Welfare, first set sights on the sickly baby in September, he couldn’t sit, nor hold his head up. Prince’s mother, Happy, had come to Bailey’s clinic in Durban Deep (Durban Deep outside Roodepoort in Johannesburg) to give her gravely ill child to Bailey in desperation.

His condition was so severe that Bailey and a colleague from Sparrow Rainbow Village, a dedicated HIV/AIDS health care facility in Florida, rushed him to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.

There, he spent more than a month being treated for kwashiorkor, a form of severe malnutrition caused by inadequate protein consumption. He recovered and was discharged on October 16, but now that Prince is back in his parents’ dingy, crumbling mine hostel in Durban Deep, the vomiting and diarrhoea have started again.

“He got well,” said Bailey. “At least he can now sit and hold up his head. But now that he is back in the same conditions, he’s going to get malnourished again because there’s not enough nutrition at home.”

The 21-year-old Happy cut a dejected figure in the darkness of their bedroom. “He vomits all his food and medicine and breathes very fast. I would love to keep my child because he’s always sick. As a mother, you want to look after your ill child. But I just don’t have the means,” she said.

She had already lost another baby, a three-month-old, who died from dehydration in August.

Prince’s father, Mbizo, is a 28-year-old illegal miner who toils in a shaft just a few hundred metres from their home. Life was better when he struck it “lucky” underground. Happy would help him grind the 5g of precious gold dust he recovered, Prince strapped to her back. They would walk home with about R300.

That was until the hit squads – marauding gangs of Sothos – came. Mbizo’s friend was shot and Mbizo was assaulted and left for dead.

“It’s not safe. They want to kill Zimbabwean miners. If I’m gone five days, my family worries. They know I will come back dead. I have no papers, I’m illegal and I can’t get other work,” said Happy.

Mbizo hasn’t gone back to mine for the past six months. If it wasn’t for Bailey’s food parcels, the family – there are two other children, Nokthula, 5, and Ashel, 4 – would have starved by now. “Before Cora helped us, there was no food,” he explained.

“All we had was a 12.5kg pack of mealie meal. We didn’t eat for two days at a time. Sometimes I would go hungry for two days and sacrifice my food for them. We’d all go to bed hungry, even the baby.”

Going back to Zimbabwe was not an option. “If we go back, we’ll starve. Here at least you can buy something for R2. We’d rather suffer here than go home,” he said.

Bailey showed a letter from the social worker at Rahima Moosa imploring Child Welfare to urgently intervene as Prince is severely malnourished, HIV-positive and suffers from developmental delays.

On Wednesday, they did.

Social workers this week removed Prince, placing him in a nearby children’s home on the West Rand. “The mother is sick, the father is sick. It’s not a good place for the children to live,” said an official. “Until the parents are able to provide a proper home, he’ll be with us. There will be visitation rights.”

Bailey added: “There’s a crisis with these children in need of care. But children’s homes are struggling and worry that they won’t receive foster care grants for foreign children.”

Phindile Hlalele, the executive director of the ACFS, a feeding scheme that nourishes 20 000 children across Joburg, said malnutrition was a huge problem.

Hlalele is providing the remaining Sibanda children with milk and peanut butter sandwiches every week and hopes to deliver a food parcel every month.

“There is real hunger in the communities we visit… We find a lot of foreign children, neglected and hungry. Children are dying.”

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ZNNP+ launches Miss HIV

The Herald

THE Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS has launched a pageant for women living with HIV/AIDS in Matabeleland South Province.

In an interview after the crowning of Miss HIV Positive Bulilima and Mangwe in Plumtree recently, Matabeleland South youth provincial chairperson for the organisation Lillian Ndiweni said the pageant was aimed at instilling confidence among people living with HIV/AIDS.

“We have realised that stigma starts with the people living with HIV/AIDS, because they view themselves as inferior. That is why we have launched this pageant in order to boost their self-esteem.

“We wish that people living with HIV would stop focusing on their shortcomings and concentrate more on their strengths,” she said.

Ndiweni said the pageant was being held in various districts of the province, culminating in the provincial finals next month.

“The pageant was recently held in Bulilima and Mangwe districts, where six ladies were crowned.

“These ladies will be representing the two districts at provincial level where we will be having representatives from all other districts. The pageant will be later conducted at national level as well,” she said.

Mpilo Ndlovu from Mangwe District was crowned Miss HIV Positive Bulilima Mangwe Youth, while Thokozani Mkhwebu was crowned Miss HIV Positive Bulilima Mangwe Senior.

Ndiweni said the pageant had 10 adult participants and nine youths.

“The competition only had female contestants as men are not forthcoming when it comes to participating in HIV-related programmes.

“The pageant saw nine youths and 10 adults battling it out for the two crowns. The response from contestants was really good,” she said.

She said ZNNP+ had organised the pageant with the assistance of Restless Development, a non-governmental organisation focusing on improving the livelihoods of people living with HIV through initiating various self-help projects.

Silibaziso Msipa from Mangwe was crowned first princess, while Ivani Ncube emerged the second princess in the seniors category.

Iphithule Ndlovu and Mavis Moyo were crowned first and second princess respectively under the youths category. The winners received vouchers. The pageant was held under the theme “Breaking new ground in order to bury stigma and discrimination”.

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Adventist HIV/AIDS ministry reducing stigma

Decade after HIV/AIDS ministry launched, major reduction of stigma, increased support

by Ansel Oliver | Adventist news Network

Doctors Oscar and Eugenia Giordano are directors of the Adventist AIDS International Ministry, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Instead of establishing one big office, they launched in 2003 with a small office and built up a network of partners throughout Africa.

Doctors Oscar and Eugenia Giordano are directors of the Adventist AIDS International Ministry, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Instead of establishing one big office, they launched in 2003 with a small office and built up a network of partners throughout Africa.

Ten years ago, Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano held an advisory meeting of Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders in Africa with a mission of developing a ministry to the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The denomination had just established an HIV/AIDS office on the continent and appointed the husband-and-wife duo as directors of the ministry. The disease was shrouded in shame, stigma and discrimination, and many Adventists in Africa shied away from talking about it. Many church members who had HIV were dying because they strongly resisted testing.

Four people showed up to that first meeting.

“We didn’t have anything. There was no network,” Giordano recalls. “The church wasn’t sensitized to this issue. We felt even the people at [the church’s world headquarters] who established our office didn’t even fully understand what was going to be involved.”

Now, a decade later, the Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) is coordinating and promoting hundreds of HIV/AIDS church-based support programs for those living with the disease in sub-Saharan Africa.

And this year’s 10th African advisory, held earlier this month in Nairobi, Kenya, drew 70 attendees, all of whom work directly for AAIM as coordinators in dozens of countries and church administrative units. But more than increased attendance at a meeting, it symbolizes the church’s acceptance of its role in fighting the pandemic, church officials say, and gives members and leaders resources to offer care and support to those with HIV/AIDS.

In the past decade, the Adventist Church has established more than 3,000 programs to help those affected by HIV/AIDS in 26 countries.

“As long as we remain faithful in responding compassionately to those in need, God will continue to provide resources needed in addressing great needs arising from this effects of this pandemic,” said Geoffrey Mbwana, an Adventist world church general vice president. “We have seen God do just that in the last 10 years of this ministry.”

Granted, several local Adventist HIV/AIDS ministries had already sprouted in Africa by the year 2000. But many say a coordinated effort by AAIM has reduced the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, which can often be the largest challenge in reducing the pandemic.

The Adventist Church’s Health Ministries director, Dr. Peter Landless, said no one in the denomination did more to urge the church to establish AAIM than his predecessor, Dr. Allan Handysides. “His insight from 15 years as a missionary in Africa, his experience as a practicing clinician, and his Christ-centered, grace-filled approach to health ministry helped church leaders see the need to confront the fear and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS,” Landless said.

“Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in 2008.

Oscar Giordano says Ban’s point is still valid. The Adventist Church has made great strides, he says, but much work still remains.

“The stigma of HIV/AIDS is still very prevalent in our churches in West Africa, while in East and Southern Africa, where AAIM has worked for many years, it is much less marked,” Giordano said.

At this year’s advisory, leaders of regional Adventist HIV/AIDS ministries met at the denomination’s East-Central Africa Division headquarters to network and trade ideas for developing and implementing projects. Initiatives range from public awareness campaigns and income-generating economic opportunities for those infected with the virus to family support and individual counseling.

First diagnosed in 1981, AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – is a disease that weakens the immune system, slowly destroying the body’s ability to fight infections and certain cancers. It is caused by HIV – human immunodeficiency virus.

The virus doesn’t make as many news headlines as in years past, but still kills nearly 5,000 people globally each day, according to the World Health Organization. HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact, infected needles and mothers breast-feeding children.

The stigma in the Adventist Church – which promotes sexual abstinence before marriage and monogamous heterosexual unions – is that members with the disease were having an affair. Often, though, they contracted the virus through no fault of their own from an unfaithful spouse. Regardless of how the virus was contracted, church leaders want to minister and raise awareness about how to show compassion and care. But at first, even talking about the disease was awkward.

“Ten years ago, our churches in Africa were in almost complete denial on issues about HIV/AIDS,” Giordano said. “We now emphasize compassion and Christ’s love. Many people in Africa who contract HIV/AIDS lose their relationships, family and job.”

Adventist Church member Euginia Keebine said she found out 16 years ago that she was HIV positive. She started an informal HIV/AIDS ministry and was the only Adventist Church member she knew in her city to disclose a positive status. Since 2010, she has served as the AAIM coordinator for the Adventist Church’s Trans-Orange Conference, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“The AAIM program is changing not only the lives of church members but also of the those in the community,” Keebine said. “I used to not be allowed to speak about HIV/AIDS or disclose my status in some churches, but today I am free to talk about AIDS-related issues. The church that used to be silent about HIV/AIDS is now vocal and church members are accepting people living with HIV/AIDS.”

The AAIM has found success through support groups, including meetings of several families, groups of patients, grandmothers, or women and children.

“It is very difficult for an individual to cope with HIV and AIDS alone, therefore, support groups are instrumental,” Giordano said.

In Zimbabwe, each of the approximately 1,500 Adventist congregations has an HIV/AIDS ministries director, and support groups serve more than 15,000 church members and community members, said Innocent Gwizo, Health Ministries director and HIV/AIDS Coordinator for the denomination’s Zimbabwe Union Conference. The government has invited Adventists to participate in HIV initiatives and given TV coverage to its programs.

“Stigma and discrimination have left our pews,” Gwizo said. “Holy communion is now served by those living with HIV, and their feet are washed by any other member of the church. All this was not there in the past.”

When people without HIV/AIDS get involved, the stigma and discrimination drops dramatically, according to Gabriel Maina of the King’eero Adventist Church and AAIM Training Center in Nairobi. The ministry at the King’eero church was launched in 2002 and has since served hundreds of people infected with HIV/AIDS with the help of more than 300 caregivers. The center has also supported more than 600 AIDS orphans.

For a while, HIV/AIDS was thought to be largely an African problem, but it’s a global issue, said Mbwana, the Adventist Church’s general vice president. “We now have a successful response which has been tried and produced positive results,” he said. The Giordanos have also served as advisors to the denomination’s North America, Inter-America and South Pacific divisions.

AAIM’s 10-year progress is particularly pleasing to many church leaders, including Zambia native Pardon Mwansa, also a general vice president of the Adventist world church. At the 2003 Annual Council, Mwansa, then president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, told church leaders, “Many times I have been on an airplane to Africa and the person sitting next to me said they were going to Africa to study AIDS. I always wonder, ‘when is somebody going to come to actually do something about AIDS?’”

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