Village health workers boost HIV care

HARARE - Our reporter Bridget Mananavire talks to village health worker Mandy Mugari of Seke who plays an essential role in the primary health care system and the fight against HIV/Aids.

She explains her mission to expand access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care under very difficult conditions, and the potential to achieve sustainable epidemic control and end Aids as a public health threat.

Below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: What is your daily routine?

A:  In a day you visit four households conducting health talk. You give whoever you will be talking to a choice of topics to choose from ranging from PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission), for example, you will be telling them about the advantages of pregnant women registering her pregnancy early and how she can be tested for HIV early and other things. And maybe you move on to the next household and they say they want to learn about STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), and you tell them about the signs and symptoms and we even give referral slips if they want to visit a health facility. And we also educate them on TB (tuberculosis). And that’s the same with HIV, sexual reproductive health and rape cases as well. Our aim is to educate people on health issues, and also sometimes when we come across some scenarios, we advocate for them to visit a health facility. And we do this also to help them seek treatment early, because some people will not even be aware of the symptoms and some will not even have money, and we tell them that they can even get assistance without paying, that you can negotiate with the sister in charge and tell her your situation.

Q: What kind of distance do you walk?

A: It all depends with where you are going that day, for example I can walk up to four kilometres depending on where I am going, but also I have a duty to also educate my neighbours where I am staying and those close to me.

Q: Do you always get welcome in people’s homes?

A: Most of them really welcome us, but sometimes you also meet rude ones. But what we do when we go out is we do not act like we know everything, because sometimes you meet people who are more educated than you, so you give them time to share their knowledge on diseases and you don’t tell them that they are wrong, according to our training, but you try and explain to make them understand, if they are wrong. You also need to be someone who is maybe a role model in your community and someone anotambirika (who can be easily welcome) not someone who boasts that they know it all.

Q: What are the major diseases or ailments that you come across in the communities?

A: TB, HIV, and these days a number of women who are being screened and being found with cervical cancer, and I would like to thank the people who brought that screening programme because most women were in the dark and I also want to thank the ministry of Health. Also there are a lot of rape and abuse cases out there. Children are being abused, so these are the things that were are coming across and we try and deal with.

Q: So what are the rewards for all this work you are doing and is it enough?

A: I get $42 quarterly, or after three months. Maybe if they increase it a bit to something reasonable, it will be better.  Because of the distance we walk, sometimes the shoes get worn out quickly. Uniforms, yes, they give us but if they give us more, maybe two pairs of shoes instead of one and money enough for our families’ upkeep. But our main wish and goal is for us to make an impact and help our communities, money is a bonus.

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