NYANGA, 24 January 2011 (PlusNews) – At first Elizabeth Matambanadzo, 18, did not think she was cut out to be part of a group of young people helping to take care of the sick and elderly. Now, months after joining Family Caring Trust (FACT) in Nyanga in Manicaland Province, she says helping others living with HIV has helped her to come to terms with her own HIV-positive status.
“We work mostly with home-based caregivers who help us identify homesteads that need assistance or where there is a sick person. We help out by cooking, washing clothes, fetching water and firewood, among many other things.
“Our work is limited to household chores as youth volunteers; we leave direct care work to caregivers who have been trained. Before we came along, caregivers used to do the care work and then the household chores. This was too much work but now we have lessened their burden.
“Most of the bedridden people we visit in our area are HIV positive and cannot do certain household chores on their own and at times you find their children taking care of them. Some of the children who have to take care of their sick parents or relatives end up not going to school. With our help they can concentrate better on their school work and have more time to do their homework.
“Our work also involves assisting grandparents who are taking care of grandchildren. They know their children died of HIV and are very open about it. The orphan problem here in Nyanga is huge. There are some grandmothers taking care of more than eight orphans and in their old age this can be strenuous so we help out as much as we can. The grandparents appreciate a simple action like helping their grandchildren get ready for school in the morning.
“This journey has also allowed me to accept my HIV-positive status. When I tested positive I was very angry because I blamed my parents for having given me this disease but seeing other families affected and infected by HIV/AIDS has made me realize that I am not alone and that it’s not my fault nor anyone’s fault.
“My mother passed away when I was five and my father when I was 10. I have been staying with my grandmother since then. I tested HIV positive in 2008 when I was 16 after being sick for a long time. I developed sores all over my body that wouldn’t heal even after taking medicine. My grandmother and I were always in and out of hospital. I missed a lot of school. At first doctors thought I had diabetes since the sores were not healing.
“After the diabetes test came back negative the doctor recommended an HIV test. At first my grandmother was against the idea but after some time she agreed. I was shocked when the result came back positive because I had never had sex. My grandmother cried too, she was very sad but the doctor explained that I may have been born HIV positive. I was very angry and blamed my parents for giving me this disease. I was immediately put on antiretroviral drugs [ARVs] and my sores healed… I feel very strong and healthy… all I want is to continue helping other people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS in my community.”