Rebecca Chiroodza (36) has been living positively with HIV since 1999. She was among the first people to disclose their status and participate in anti-stigma campaigns. Since 2003, she has been moving countrywide — in workplaces, churches, homes and through the media, radio and television teaching about HIV and home-based care. She uses her own testimony as a lesson to other people and this has helped so many people countrywide to change their behaviour and attitudes if they are still negative, and if they are positive, so they can continue living a healthy life.
Melody Gambe, Own Correspondent
When Chiroodza got tested in 1999, HIV was still an enigma and she could not tell anyone, even her close family members and friends because she feared how people would react. She describes this as having been one of the most difficult times in her life because she needed someone to confide in, but the fear of rejection was so great she chose to remain silent.
In 2003, Chiroodza volunteered to participate in an anti-stigma campaign by Population Services International (PSI) and this marked a turning point in her life. This was triggered by her sister’s death. She believes the sister could have lived longer if she had opened up and obtained treatment.
Working with PSI, they did an advertisement which was very popular on ZTV which had four or five people who were revealing their statuses on national television.
Chiroodza was among these people and her message was Handina kuroiwa, ndiri kurarama neHIV — meaning she was not bewitched, but was living positively with HIV.
This advertisement saw the beginning of Chiroodza’s activities because after, she started getting phone calls from people who needed help. PSI then introduced her to what they call a “Workplace Programme” and she started moving countrywide with their officials making presentations to people in workplaces. She was on the road all the time, even going as far as Beitbridge. From that time to date, Chiroodza has become a source of inspiration for many people infected and affected by HIV.
Chiroodza is involved in workshops and trainings. She teaches people stages after getting tested: denial and hatred towards those that one thinks might have infected them. She also teaches people how to overcome these emotions and move forward. Stress management, protected sex and healthy eating are some of the things she emphasises and sites as the reasons her HIV has not culminated to Aids even after so many years.Chiroodza works with PSI whenever there are campaigns, workshops or training sessions to be done and it is all on a voluntary basis. With their Workplace Programme she has visited a number of big organisations all over the country such as Telecel, ReNaisance Bank, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Afre Corporation, Mazda Wllowvale, and so many others.