Unicef Youths take on HIV fight to help peers

HARARE - Tears well up in Kimo’s eyes as she recalls the day her aunt threw her out of her home condemning her to an early marriage that effectively left her infected with HIV.

“I was late coming home one day, and my aunt chased me out the house and told me go back to my boyfriend,” says Kimo.

“After my uncle sided with my aunt I had nowhere else to go. So I went back to my boyfriend’s house.”

As a result, the 18-year-old found herself hastily married to a man she hardly knew, thus starting a journey that left her HIV positive and divorced within the space of six months.

“To make matters worse,” explains Kimo, “soon after being diagnosed with HIV, I discovered he had been taking ARVs behind my back. I was devastated, but I have moved on now and all I want is to help others.’’

Kimo is now a Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CAT), a volunteer group of HIV positive young people who are living positively with HIV, and assisting other young people who are HIV positive.

Last year, the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) supported Africaid to rollout the Zvandiri Programme to seven new districts including Mudzi District.

A total of 19 CATs were trained under Zvandiri Programme in the Mudzi District.

Africaid’s role has centred on training and mentorship of provincial and district level Social Welfare and Protection Officers on HIV-sensitive case management, as well as linking CATs and Case Care Workers.

Significant advances have been noted by the ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the ministry of Health and Child Care and Unicef in terms of identification, referral and management of children and adolescents with HIV in need of child protection services.

To improve access, efficiency and effectiveness of these services Zvandiri recently introduces a Mobile Database Application system called ZVAMODA.

ZVAMODA is a management information system which has been developed by Africaid to track the progress of each child, adolescent and young person registered in the Zvandiri programme.

It is a digital application that allows CATS and their Zvandiri Mentors to enter real-time data, collected during every contact with a client. It is also used for sending adherence and clinic visit reminders and providing e-mentorship to individual CATs in different locations.

By integrating Child Protection into Social Protection through the implementation and design of the Cash-plus-Care (Cash+) intervention, CATs are able to ensure that the targeted population is also linked to other social protection programmes that address negative coping strategies that put them at risk of protection violations; as well as community-based model to promote adherence to Anti-Retro Viral Treatment (ART), retention in HIV care and reduce HIV transmission.

This all being made possible by the Dutch Government’s contribution towards Protection of the most vulnerable children and adolescents in drought affected communities.

“My life may not have turned out the way I had hoped and dreamed, but I am still young and I am grateful that I now have a purpose and I can help other young people live a fulfilled life,” says Kimo. “Living with HIV is no longer a death sentence and I look forward to a bright future.”

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