Community Based Programme against HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe
~ A nurse and a maternity nurse from the JRCS met various local people ~
The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) is a leading organization in Zimbabwe that provides humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable through its Community Based HIV/AIDS Programme. The Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) is supporting the ZRCS through providing financial assistance and sending health delegates. The following is the reports sent from the JRCS delegates.
"I have anti-AIDS medicine, but...."
Reported by Nurse Sakurai
(Seconded from Maebashi Red Cross Hospital;worked in Mashonaland West Province from May 21 through November 20, 2007.)
Among the HIV/AIDS patients receiving home health care services, there was one woman in her forties from Zambia. She went back to Zambia every month for more than a year to get her prescribed anti-retroviral (ARV) medicine, which suppresses the spread of HIV. When I first visited her at home, I asked her if she ever forgot to take her daily dose of the medicine. She answered very seriously that she never forgot it because the medicine was her lifeline. A month later, I visited her again and found the skin of her face darker and harder than before. I asked her if she still took the medicine on a regular basis, and she answered that she did so every day without fail. However, when I further asked if she had taken it or not that day, she just looked down and didn't answer. It was already past eleven o'clock in the morning, far later than her normal medicine time. Then I asked her again to confirm her actions. "You must have been instructed by the doctors to take this medicine at the proper time every day, weren't you?" She answered, "I know very well that I will die if I don't take it regularly. However, the side effects of this medicine are so severe that I can't endure them when I'm hungry. So I always try to take it after a meal."She continued, nearly in tears. But today, I can't take the medicine yet because I have no food to eat. I still can't find any though I've been trying to since this morning. I do want to take it soon, but I can't...."I was completely shocked by her words and just stood there looking at her, unable to respond.
"Look at my farm produce, and my school record, too."
Reported by Maternity Nurse Aoyagi
(Seconded from Katsushika Red Cross Maternity Hospital; worked in Mashonaland East Province from June 24 through December 15, 2007.)
One day when we drove down a rural road in a car, a boy ran after us. His name was Arfigio, and he was 12 years old. He had lost his parents due to AIDS three years before and was now living alone. After the death of his parents, he was taken to a relative's home, but later he ran away because he was abused there and went back to the house he had lived in with his parents. He was registered as an AIDS Orphan and Other Vulnerable Children (OVC), by the volunteers of the Zimbabwe Red Cross. When he saw the Red Cross staff, he asked pleasantly, "Will you stop by my house? I'll show you the nice onions I grew." He also told us cheerfully that his school term was just over and that he lived a good healthy daily life. Onion seeds are distributed by the Red Cross as part of its food supply program. The onions he had grown were really nice. As I was leaving his house, he asked me to take a bag full of his onions. "I feel guilty to take so many onions," I said. But as the other Red Cross staff also encouraged me to take a whole bag, I finally accepted it from him. I still clearly remember the bashful smile he showed when I said, "Thank you very much." I was moved to tears by the fact that, even without power or water, he stayed alone at night and worked on the farm during the daytime, while going to school every day.
When adults become HIV/AIDS patients, the daily lives of their children are also directly affected. The Red Cross assists such children by distributing food, soap, stationery and school uniforms as well as paying school expenses. When each school term is over, children come to Red Cross offices to present their school records and show their gratitude to the staff. I was impressed by how much the staff enjoyed watching as the children grew over the years. It is true that the support provided by the Red Cross is not nearly enough and that there are still many things to do for such children. However, it is also true that we have saved many people step by step, in a firm, resolute manner. We must continue supporting these efforts in Zimbabwe, and I hope the time will soon come when the Zimbabwe Red Cross becomes independent and even more successful.