“Why am I taking these pills? I’m not sick and ayababa (they have a bitter taste)?” These are the words of eight-year-old *Nomathemba Moyo to her mother.
Nomathemba does not know what it means to be HIV-positive and that she is HIV-positive and is living with the HIV virus.
Among her three siblings she is the only one who is HIV-positive and that has become a thorn in her soul, her mother Nobuhle Sibanda (43) discovered that she was HIV-positive when she was going for ante-natal care visit. Sibanda’s husband is based in South Africa where he works as a security guard.
Sibanda said when she discovered that she was HIV-positive she decided to keep it as a closely guarded secret because she feared that disclosing to her husband had a potential of wrecking her marriage.
“My husband is based in South Africa. I discovered that I was HIV-positive during ante-natal care visit. After that I sat down and had a careful thought about it and decided not to disclose to my husband,” she said.
She added: “I know he was going to accuse me of being a person of loose morals and would desert me and leave me suffering with our three children. I also take ARVs secretly.
I only informed my aunt and strongly advised her not to share that information with anyone.”
Sibanda explained the reason behind not telling her husband that Nomathemba is HIV-positive.
“I realised that somehow my husband would get to know if I had disclosed to Noma that she is HIV-positive and the whole world was going to know and that could have plunged me into dire trouble,” she said.
Trevor Chirimambowa — the director Million Memory Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) a voluntary organisation housed at Mpilo Central Hospital and caters for children who were born HIV-positive said there were terrible consequences when parent(s) or a guardian fails to tell the child that he or she is HIV-positive.
“During a meeting that we held with HIV-positive minors some minors between the ages of nine and 13 revealed that they had nothing to lose as such they engage in unprotected sex or in group sex during their Vuzu parties.
“This is a double tragedy. The minor would infect his or her partner with the HIV virus and re-infect himself or herself with HIV virus,” he said.
A counsellor, Trinity Tshuma, said some of the minors get very angry after they discover on their own that they are HIV-positive.
“Due to lack of counselling and adequate information some of the minors assume being HIV-positive is a death sentence. They believe their dreams would be shattered.
They become bitter with their parents especially after they discover on their own that they are HIV-positive.
“Some refuse to take ARVs or they overdose them in a bid cut short their lives.
“As a result some commit suicide while some engage in delinquent behaviour such as taking drugs or alcohol so as to escape from the stress of being HIV-positive,” she said.
She went on to say some of the teenage girls engage in risky sexual behaviours.
“Some of the teenage girls in such situations have low self-esteem and start to ask themselves questions such as: will I ever get married and what will my boyfriend say when he discovers that I’m HIV positive?” she pointed out.
Chirimambowa said in a bid to solve the problem they introduce the minors to peer educators who would roll out information gradually.
“We introduce the minor to a peer educator who would provide him or her with counselling service and then at an appropriate stage the counsellor would reveal to the minor that he or she is HIV-positive and that is why she is taking ARVs.
“At times we introduce the minor to a peer group of minors who are HIV-positive, in that group they will share information at the end of the session the minor would accept his or her HIV status.
“On certain occasions we partner the minor with an HIV-positive peer educator who would talk to him or her quite often and constantly remind him or her that being HIV-positive is not a death sentence, it is like any other disease,” he said.
Chirimambowa saluted counsellors from Bulawayo United Residents Association (Bura) and Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (Bupra).
“We have joined hands with Bura and Bupra counsellors. They are doing a good service to the community as they provide post-test counselling services to HIV-positive minors.
They have also built relationships with their parents or guardians. If ever any problem regarding the HIV status of the minor arises they chip in with counselling services.”
*Not her real name.