75-year-old sekuru Sandram and his brother Shatini Jasi (71years) from Gokwe South District tested positive to HIV in 2009 and were commenced on antiretroviral treatment (ART) in 2010. During this time, stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV (PLHIV) was rife with communities regarding HIV as a death sentence. Amid the fear and discrimination, the two brothers took upon themselves to raise awareness of HIV services through music and dance and have never looked back. They have taken demand generation for HIV services to another level!
“We got tested for HIV together with my wife in 2009, my wife could not accept her HIV positive result. What will our neighbours say? She would repeat this statement day and night.” Said Sekuru Sandram. Although his wife was commenced on ART in 2010 together with her husband, she defaulted on treatment, got seriously ill and died in 2011.
“My wife’s death prompted me to get in an awareness drive. There was need to dispel myths about HIV, I am a living testimony that if you take your medication correctly and consistently you can live a long and healthy life. Together with my brother Shatini whose wife is also on ART and going strong, we started composing songs on HIV which caused notable behaviour changes in our community. We would not miss any community gathering sharing our life testimonies and engaging community members through song and dance.”
The Jasi brothers are also members of the Kuronga Community ART Refill Group (CARG) “We also tell our peers about the advantages of being a CARG member. We live more than 20km away from the health facility and as CARG members, we do not need to travel every time as we take turns to collect our medication. We save on transport costs and have more time to attend to our day-to-day activities.” Explained Sekuru Shatini.
Realising the passion and commitment of the Jasi brothers, USAID/ZHI Gokwe South Accelerated and Comprehensive HIV Care for Epidemic Control in Zimbabwe (ACCE) Program engaged them to champion the demand generation activities in the district. In the month of May 2022, the two brothers used their powerful life testimonies, song and dance to convey key messages on viral load monitoring, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), TB Preventive Therapy (TPT) as well as cervical cancer screening and testing. The key messages coined in simple local language got to the hearts and souls of community leaders who all committed to join the Jasi brothers to promote the uptake of HIV services in their communities.
During the demand generation and community engagement meetings conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) in Gokwe South, a total of 250 community leaders including headmen, village heads, church leaders, village health workers and councillors were reached. Each meeting had a total of 50 participants from Tongwe, Bomba, Masakadza, Sasame, and Manoti community areas.