Zimbabwe: Catholic agencies in fight against AIDS

 Zimbabwe's communities are managing to fight HIV/AIDS, despite the desperate economic and political situation, according to a report by CIIR/ICD development worker Patrick Nganzi from Chinhoyi in northern Zimbabwe. Nganzi has been working with local AIDS service organisation Batsirai - founded in 1988 by the community in Chinhoyi - to strengthen community-led responses to the virus. Batsirai now operates in all six districts of Mashonaland West province, in northern Zimbabwe. Batsirai's mission is to prevent the spread and reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS by providing accessible, sustainable and comprehensive awareness and community-based care with the people of Mashonaland West Province. When Batsirai decided to improve community participation in the design, planning and implementation of its HIV/AIDS work, it approached CIIR/ICD. Nganzi was recruited, having previously worked in a similar role in his native Uganda. Nganzi said that youth peer education remains an important part of this work, and the first such training took place in Mhangura community. It enabled the youth to identify the risks that they were taking and how the problems they faced might increase them. This successful experience is being developed into a youth training guide to be used by other communities. Other innovative approaches by Batsirai include the Takura AIDS Prevention Association: eight years ago Batsirai trained former commercial sex workers to work as peer educators for other commercial sex workers. Batsirai employ them to conduct trainings of other peer educators and support groups. Plans are underway to repeat the initiative in other towns. Nganzi reported that the political crisis and hyperinflation - running at 365 per cent per year - have hampered communities' ability to tackle the virus. Food shortages mean that some families go for four days without meals. This makes it difficult to implement community activities that are based on voluntarism, Nganzi said. But Batsirai, and the host of other grassroots and community organisations that they work with, continue to make progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS despite the country's political and economic crisis. Source: CIIR

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