Women launch herbal fight against HIV

HARARE - Courage, faith and enthusiasm for life are what they have in common.

They had the courage to get tested and had faith in herbal medicines.

And their boundless enthusiasm for life has paid dividends.

Lucia Dzuda-Kuleya, 39, Edna Shava, 40, Maria Augusto, 47, and Aletta Muteura, 56, have been using herbal medicines since they tested positive several years ago.

They came to use herbal medicines through different routes and have no regrets.

When Augusto’s husband died in 2000, she did not know he was HIV positive because he did not tell her what was ailing him.

Her husband worked for the National Railways of Zimbabwe, and used herbs provided by Indian work colleagues who used to visit him in Budiriro.

After her husband’s death, she suspected something was wrong with her and decided to get tested.

Her worst fears were confirmed when the results came out.

Since her husband had survived on herbs for a number of years, she decided to go the same route.

Fortunately, herbs worked for her. She has not taken cotrimoxazole or ARVs and says she is in good health.

Augusto was delighted when in 2007 a support group was formed in Rugare, the high density suburb where most of the former National Railways of Zimbabwe employees live.

She also grows and sells herbs bought from the herbal clinic at the Harare Exhibition Park.

Augusto was one of the first people to join the support group which now has 27 members, mostly women.

Men, she says, tend to be secretive about illness and will not go for medical checkups until they are seriously ill. Her husband’s experience taught her as much.

Augusto has been using herbs for 14 years, and ever since she started taking them, she has not been sick for a single day.

She gets her CD4 count every six months as an assurance she is in good health.

She says members of support groups, encourage each other to take herbs regularly — after every three days — just as people who use Anti Retroviral drugs have to take them without fail.

She recommends pain creams for those with swollen legs and feet, and from experience, says herbal soaps and creams work wonders on the skin.

Her skin is testimony to the wonders.

Dzuda-Kuleya tested positive in May 2010, but when she was put on the antibiotic cotrimoxazole which has sulphur content, she reacted badly.

She had skin patches all over her body.

By the time Dzuda-Kuleya met a caregiver in Dzivaresekwa high density suburb; she was so stressed and thought it was the end of her world.

But the caregiver advised her to visit the herbal clinic where she was counselled and was put on immune-boosting herbs.

She was advised to use herbal shampoos and herbal soaps. Her skin was soon back to normal.

Again, she was advised to have regular CD4 checks and to have protected sex.

At one time her CD4 count went down, but after taking immune boosters, the count quickly shot up.

Dzuda-Kuleya says she can tell a person who is positive and is on ARVs from their skin.

ARVs affect skin texture and she advises on the use of herbal drugs which easily restore the skin to its normal condition.

Dzuda-Kuleya says from her experience in Dzivaresekwa, where she now sells herbal medicines and is now known as Mai Maherbs, husbands often know their HIV status, but seldom tell their wives.

On the one hand, they are often more reluctant to get tested than women but once they know their status they readily take herbs or drugs.

But on the other hand, when women get tested first before their husbands, they feel hurt.

Her advice to women: “When you frequently become sick, get tested and ask caregivers for counselling.

“Your chances of survival are much better when the viral load is lower.” Shava from kwa Bob says when she started losing weight in 2008, she thought it was because of the hard times.

She waited a year before getting tested in March 2009 and was found positive, with a CD4 count of 660.

When she finally went to Harare Central Hospital in October that year, her CD4 count had slid to 600 and she was not given ARVs.

She later joined the Ruponiso group at Hopley with a membership of 17, where she was referred to the Little Children of Our Blessed Lady Clinic and was given immune booster herbs.

Her CD4 count shot up to 940 and she is now on routine six-monthly CD4 checks.

Shava says she is satisfied with her health and is not suffering from any ailments and insists people must know their status early for them to use herbs.

She also says she has maintained a diet of herbal teas, without milk, whole sweet and Irish potatoes; muboora, mutsine, bonongwe and sadza remhunga (millet meal), zviyo (finger millet meal), whole wheat, dried fish and peanut butter.

Muteura says she first became sick in 2009 when she lived in Mabvuku.

She had lost a lot of weight and suffered from backache, tummy aches, headaches and her legs also hurt.

When she visited the herbal clinic she was advised to get an immune booster and her health has improved for the better. She has no ailments.

She says she is doing well selling herbs for different illnesses — arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, headaches, skin diseases, malaria and flu.

The women have even coined an expression based on the township lingo for someone who is equal to the task: “Ane sando dzake.”

The women’s expression is “tine tsapfu dzedu.” Their health is in good order.

They claim those who are on ARVs develop bigger busts. But they have maintained their body proportions.

Comments (8)

Quite enlightening where are they?

Maita Manyuka - 27 February 2014

Amazing story. Where can these women be found ? Please email me their contacts.

Donovan - 12 March 2014

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amanda - 11 September 2015

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