Learning that you have HIV can be a demoralizing, almost crippling discovery. Not only are you suffering from the symptoms that led you to visit the health clinic in the first place, you also now face the stigma that so many people living with HIV face. Admitting to your friends, family, employer, or community that you are HIV positive can lead to unemployment, being ostracized, and more. On top of that, the anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) that can save your life will actually make you feel worse for the first few weeks as your body gets used to the powerful medicine you are now taking.
PWRDF works with EHALE, the Association of Community Health, in northern Mozambique to support people living with HIV and AIDS as part of its health care program in the country. This program is also funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). EHALE trains and equips activistas—community health workers—who provide basic medical help and also advice and accompaniment to people in their villages who are living with HIV.
Bonifacio Joaquim is one such activista. He currently works with three patients in the community of Mepeira. Alzeira Luis is one of his patients. She was diagnosed as being HIV positive just five days before a PWRDF visit in November, 2012. Her CD4 count (a measurement of the severity of the disease) was below 130—dangerously low.
Joaquim visits her twice a day to help her take her doses of ARVs, and to talk to her about how she can live with her disease. He is an expert on that topic, as he is HIV positive himself. The ARVs give Luis stomach aches, but she is persisting in taking them with food twice a day. While she remains bedridden during PWRDF’s visit, she will be back on her feet in two to three weeks and able to continue her life, knowing she has support from a knowledgeable role-model in Joaquim.