Shunned by their communities and even families, some say they are finding solace in support groups, which not only help them cope with their condition, but also survive the harsh economic situation.
Tariro Chikwanha (49) of St Mary’s in Chitungwiza who tested HIV-positive in 1997 believes that without her local support group she would not have lived this long.
“In the 1990s information on HIV and Aids was very scarce and when one tested positive it meant death,” she said.
“It took me two years to accept my status as I was living in denial since I had been very faithful to my husband.”
But her life began to take a turn for the better when she joined the 15-member Tariro Support Group.
“Before I joined the support group my life was in danger as I was living in isolation and this was slowly killing me,” Chikwanha added.
“Members in our support group came to my rescue as for the first time I had friends around me who were understanding and were able to offer support in my time of need.”
Silibele Mpofu, the National Aids Council’s co-ordinator of the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV and Aids programme said support groups had become one of the best coping mechanisms for people affected by the disease.
“The groups come together to discuss a number of topics, which include issues of treatment, nutrition and other related issues and open communication among the members is encouraged,” he said.
Mpofu said some groups had set up nutritional gardens that assisted them to have a balanced diet, which is vital for the immune system.
However, Chikwanha said the support groups face a number of challenges, such as inadequate finance for projects.
Zimbabwe National Network of People living with Aids Provincial Coordinator (ZNNP+) Musa Makondo said: “A support group is very essential to infected people because they get to be assisted in different ways.
“Most of the HIV-positive people are vulnerable since some of them have been chased away from their workplaces because of their status.
“In support groups they will be able to sustain themselves through income generating projects.”