This photostory was produced by Tendayi and Cynthia Kureya; PANOS; SAFAIDS Zimbabwe and photography by Tendayi Kureya
My name is Felistas Murwisi but everyone calls me mbuya (granny). I am 48 years old. I am married and have 5 children – 4 girls and a boy. I stay in Norton, a small commuter town that is 40km to the west of Harare the capital of Zimbabwe.
From 2002, I was intermittently bodily sick and was constantly worried. Each time I felt sick I visited the local clinic – this wall all I could do. Then in 2004, I suffered a stroke that affected my right side. I went for physiotherapy and on the 22nd of November, 2004 I went for an HIV test which showed that I was sero-positive.
How it affected me
By early 2004 I had lost weight and I was emotionally drained. I was confounded by my HIV result. I was staying at Manyame camp, an air base that is 25km from Harare when this happened. There were no post support services or Home Based Care Programmes. I was on my own and isolated as many people in my core network including relatives kept their distance. My CD4 cell count 256. I was told that it was too low and that I had to start Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
When my family moved to Norton, a neighbour introduced me to Tsungirirai Centre*. I was attended to by the Home Based Care (HBC) department. The welcome I got was very pleasurable and I felt loved. The HBC facilitator taught me a lot about Positive Living. I also received material support in the form of food packs.
Although my husband had not yet disclosed his status, he allowed me to receive visits from the HBC facilitator. His approval signalled his support and that was very important for my recovery. The HBC facilitator gave me herbs for the treatment of minor ailments and the facilitator also demonstrated so much love, which resonated in my happiness.
When I joined a support group for PLWHAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS) the penny dropped in my mind as I realised that I was not alone. I was motivated to help others with similar problems.
I am now a peer counsellor and my services are to peers at Tsungirirai Centre and Norton hospital. I am dertermind to pass on all I know about HIV and AIDS to those in need. Our support group has a couple of Income Generating Projects. I participate in candle and peanut butter making. My mind is at peace and I am now very creative and innovative – skills I never knew I had. I encourage people to visit Tsungirirai Centre for HIV testing and they respond in numbers.
I take healthy foods and hold fast to my prescription to take my anti-retrovirals. This has been boosting my health status and my CD4 cell count has been on the rise. It was at 380 in 2006; 720 in 2007; and 980 in 2008, which was the last time I had the test done.
My relatives and community isolated me when I was sick. I am now a valuable and unique resource to them. They now respect and count on me for material and moral support. I am happy to be where I am today. I have 6 grandchildren I enjoy and love to see as they grow.
* Tsungirirai Centre is a Community Based Organisation that benefits from Irish Aid funding through its HIV and Aids HBC Programme in Zimbabwe. It is based in Katanga a high density Suburb in Norton.