Thoko* lives at Chaka mine in Kwekwe district where her husband works as an artisanal miner. One day she had a surprise call from the USAID/ZHI supported Community Nurse, she wanted to visit her.
“I accepted the Community Nurse’s request to visit me at home. After a long counselling session, she disclosed to me that my husband had tested HIV positive at the clinic and I was also encouraged to get tested,” explained Thoko.
“I was not surprised by my husband’s HIV positive result because I suspected that he had a girl friend and I always warned him that extra marital affairs result in one contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs)”
Indeed, Thoko’s husband Bernard* had a girlfriend in Kwekwe town who was tested for HIV when she visited the clinic feeling sick and her result was positive. The nurse encouraged her to disclose if she had any sexual partners and she revealed that Bernard was one of her boyfriends. It was not easy to locate Thoko’s husband as he was busy with his artisanal mining activities. After several phone calls, the community nurse managed to test Bernard at his workplace, his HIV result too was positive. Bernard agreed to have the nurse call his wife so that she could also get tested for HIV.
“The nurse explained to me that HIV was not a death sentence and that we could live a healthy life with my husband and have children in future. I was relieved when she mentioned that I could be protected from HIV through Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).” Said Thoko with a voice full of hope.
“I listened as she explained to me that PrEP is a daily course of antiretrovirals (ARVs) taken by HIV negative people to prevent HIV infection. She emphasized the need for me to take PrEP correctly to eliminate the risk of getting HIV.”
The community nurse also highlighted to Thoko the fact that PrEP would not protect her against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) therefore it was best for them to use condoms to protect themselves from these STIs.
Thoko was initiated on PrEP in November 2021, and she will continue to take the medicine as long as she is at risk of HIV infection.
“I feel empowered, I am in control of my health. The community nurse encouraged me to get tested again for HIV after three months and my result is still negative. I am encouraging my friends who are also at risk of contracting HIV to get tested and if they are HIV negative to get PrEP.”
Thoko advocated for awareness campaigns on PrEP: “women are vulnerable and cannot negotiate for safer sex and yet most of them are not aware of this drug. PrEP will go a long way in preventing them from getting HIV. Please increase awareness on PrEP to save lives.”
Through the PEPFAR/USAID supported Accelerated, and Comprehensive HIV Care and Treatment for Epidemic Control in Zimbabwe (ACCE) program, Zimbabwe Health Interventions (ZHI) continues to reach most at risk populations including women in hard-to-reach communities with PrEP. Kwekwe district supported a total of 493 people at risk of contracting HIV to access PrEP from October 2021 to February 2022.