All posts tagged HIV/Aids

AIDS support group gives positive people a new lease on life!

Daliso: sick man on ART
Melia: Daliso’s wife
Mbonyiwe and Siphiwe: caregivers
Signature tune (locally popular song about HIVand AIDS)

Presenter: At one time, HIV-positive people in Zambia enjoyed good health because they received free, monthly rations of high energy protein supplements, commonly called HEPS. Unfortunately, the partial withdrawal of donor support made the availability of HEPS both erratic and inadequate. As a result, many HIV-positive people now lack the good nutrition required for their bodies to withstand the onslaught of the virus.

In Chipata, the administrative headquarters of the Eastern Province, the HIV infection rate rose drastically, from 16% in 2000 to 26% in 2010. Hospitals and undertakers were overwhelmed. Clearly, something needed to be done quickly!

In response, some People Living with HIV and AIDS, called PLHAs, in the overcrowded compound of Mchini, came together and formed a group called the Zithandize Support Group. Zithandize means self-reliance. The aim of the group was to encourage PLHAs to rely on each other for home-based care and other kinds of support for dealing with HIV and AIDS.

In the following drama, Mbonyiwe and Siphiwe are caregivers with Zithandize. They are making one of their routine visits to homes afflicted by HIV and AIDS.

SFX: Fade in voices of many women and children at water kiosk

Mbonyiwe: Oh, sissie, this compound is really rundown. Look at the filth. No proper drainage or sewage management. How do people survive here? Maybe we’ve lost our way!

Siphiwe: I don’t think so. The visitation card says a blue shack near a water kiosk, and look, this looks like it!

Daliso: (Groaning off mic)

Mbonyiwe: (Sarcastically) Sounds like it, too – those groans. Someone’s very, very sick here. Let’s knock.

Siphiwe: (Traditional manner of verbal knocking) Hodi! Hodi!

Daliso: (Groaning off mic)

Mbonyiwe: (Louder) Hodi! Hodi here!

Melia: (From inside, off mic) Come in, please, whoever you are. With a sick person in the house, the door is always left open for visitors.

SFX: Sound of footsteps entering house

Melia: Ah – ah, you girls – that uniform – are you doctors from the hospital? No? Nurses? No again; nurses don’t wear white T-shirts and slacks, nor do they carry rucksacks.
Mbonyiwe: Indeed they don’t. Look at the emblem on our breast pockets.

Melia: It’s the red ribbon for HIV and AIDS.

Siphiwe: Correct. We’re caregivers, mama!

Melia: Caregivers? Where from?

Mbonyiwe: (To Siphiwe) Turn round, Siphiwe, so that she can see what’s written on the back.

SFX: Sound of footsteps as Siphiwe turns

Melia: (Reading) Zithandize Support Group.

Mbonyiwe: (Soft laugh) Yes, and we were informed that HIV and AIDS are taking a toll on this family.

Melia: Yes, indeed! Maybe the anti-retroviral medicines are no longer working for him. But come, sit on that reed mat. We’ve no chairs here.

SFX: Sound of pulling a mat and people sitting

Daliso: (Groaning and coughing)

Mbonyiwe: Your husband doesn’t look well. Yet you said he’s on ARVs. When did he start on them?

Melia: Five years ago.

Siphiwe: (Compassionately, after a brief pause) Please share your story with us.

Melia: (Sadly, after hesitation) It’s a long story.

Siphiwe: We’ll listen.

Melia: Alright. (Pause) Briefly, we have one child, Lozindaba, who now lives with her uncle since we are not able to give her good care. After Lozi, we had a boy, who died young due to poor health. After another child also died in infancy, and my husband, Daliso, got sickly, we knew we had HIV. So we went for voluntary counselling and testing. My immune system was still considered OK. As a result, I was advised to live positively and eat a balanced diet. But Daliso was a wreck. So he was put on ARVs right away.

Mbonyiwe: So have you been living positively and having a balanced diet?

Melia: (Sad laugh) If by positive living you mean the practice of abstaining from sex, being faithful to one’s spouse or using condoms whenever having sex, yes. However, it’s like locking the door after the burglars have entered the house. But as for a balanced diet (small laugh), my dear girl, you can see poverty here even with your eyes closed. How can doctors expect us to get a balanced diet, whatever that is, when we lack even salt?

Siphiwe: So?

Melia: So with Daliso needing more food and care than I, my immune system quickly nose-dived and I got on the ARV bandwagon two years after him.

Daliso: (Groaning more seriously)

Mbonyiwe: (Worried voice) What’s the matter with him?

Melia: You know us people carrying the virus – today it’s a running stomach, tomorrow flu, the following day fever or vomiting – always one thing or another!

Siphiwe: And the hospital?

Melia: We’ve been in and out so frequently I’ve lost count. The doctors say he just needs to eat a lot. But what can I feed him on, poor as we are?

Mbonyiwe: Yes, what do you feed him on?

Melia: Nothing, actually. I give him maize meal porridge, but he vomits. Sump, he vomits (Editor’s note: Sump is maize pounded and then cooked. It’s a common breakfast for the poor in Chipata). This or that, still out it comes. I’m at my wits’ end. It was better when we had HEPS.

Siphiwe: How better?

Melia: He never vomited HEPS. In fact, he couldn’t get enough of it. (Sadly) But it’s no longer available.

Siphiwe: It is available, mama, and we’ve brought you some!

Melia: (Chidingly) Don’t pull my leg, young lady. HEPS are no longer available. Now we can only groan and die.

Daliso: (Groaning and coughing)

Mbonyiwe: Mama, it’s true. We’ve brought some HEPS, enough for a whole month. See!

SFX: (Sound of rucksacks being opened)

Melia: (In wonder) My, my, my! You girls, what’s this?

Mbonyiwe: HEPS, mama, enough for a whole month. After they’re finished, we shall bring you some more when we come to monitor the patient’s progress. Do you think he’ll vomit again?

Melia: I told you, he never vomited HEPS. It was always his favourite and he grew so strong and healthy. (Heavy pause) But now I’m afraid you’ll come a few times, then disappear with your HEPS!

Siphiwe: No, mama. We’re local people within this community. So we won’t disappear. We shall always be here to bring you HEPS and care until your husband gets better. Then …  

Melia: (Interrupting cynically) Then what? I knew there had to be a catch to this.

Mbonyiwe: (Conciliatory tone of voice) There’s no catch at all, mama. You see, it’s said that if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for one day. But if you teach him how to catch fish, he’ll eat fish all his life.

Melia: I don’t understand.

Siphiwe: What Mbonyiwe means is that the HEPS program was like giving us PLHAs ready-caught fish. The best thing would have been to teach us how to make the HEPS ourselves. Then we wouldn’t be left high and dry like this.

Melia: So?

Mbonyiwe: So at Zithandize Support Group, we have learned how to make our own HEPS. It’s so easy, after all. The main ingredient is soy flour, and most of us here are small-scale farmers.

Melia: Please come out in the open with what you mean.

Siphiwe: What we mean, mama, is that we need to find ways of getting more soybeans. Currently, we buy our soybeans from whoever around here grows them. We have a second-hand hammer mill and manufacture soy flour from pre-cooked soybeans and then add the other things needed to make our own HEPS.

Melia: (Mesmerized) Really!

Siphiwe: Yes indeed. But we can’t get enough soybeans from scrounging around. We need to get everyone involved.

Melia: In buying soybeans?

Siphiwe: No, in growing soybeans.

Melia: (Disdainfully) But I’ve never liked soybeans. They taste so bad and sell too cheaply at the market.

Siphiwe: That’s the problem! At Zithandize we teach people how to cultivate the crop. After harvest, we teach them how to pre-cook it so that it’s ready for milling. If this is not done properly, the flour usually has a bad taste, especially if the beans come in contact with cold water.

Melia: That’s all very interesting. But where do I come into this?

Mbonyiwe: You and your husband are small-scale farmers, just like the rest of us here. So you come in by growing soybeans and preparing them for the mill by pre-cooking. Zithandize will buy your soybeans at a fair price. Then we can make HEPS for all PLHAs in this compound, including you, your husband Daliso, my sister Siphiwe here, and me.

Melia: It all sounds so wonderful, but …

Mbonyiwe: But what, mama?

Melia: You’ve left us a whole month’s ration of HEPS and have promised to come again with some more next month. Yet you have to buy the soybeans and other ingredients for making HEPS. I wonder how you manage to keep such a program going.

Siphiwe: That’s a very good observation. You’re right; we’ll surely sink one day if we continue like a charity. So we’re recruiting members – out-grower farmers, if you like. So this is the other reason we’re here – to recruit you! If we get many people into this, this community will produce a lot of soybeans, which we shall buy after pre-cooking.

Mbonyiwe: So in addition to maize, everyone will have a new cash crop to focus on, and more cash to spend! With time, we shall add a small price to our HEPS to support production. It’ll be a full circle for you: you’ll grow, process, and sell soya beans, and then buy them back as HEPS for your good health. But it can only succeed if we have people like you on board. Are you willing to come on board, mama?

Melia: (Hesitantly) Er – er …

Daliso: (After groaning and coughing) Hey, mother of Lozi, surely there can be no er- er- about this. Can’t you see? This project is a noble effort that will ultimately assure good health to all of us PLHAs in this community. It’ll give us a new lease on life. So there’s no room for hesitation. Now, get the charcoal brazier afire and cook me my wonderful HEPS porridge.

Siphiwe: No, sir, we’re here as caregivers, first and foremost. So mama will be with you while we do everything. We shall clean the house, fetch good, clean water from the kiosk, and then fire the brazier to cook that precious HEPS porridge for you.

Daliso: (With admiration) You girls are angels. But start with the porridge because I’m famished! I promise not to throw up. By the time you return, I shall be as strong as Samson and ready to cultivate a whole hectare of soybeans!

Siphiwe and Mbonyiwe:(Clapping together) Gees!

Fade out sound of clapping

Presenter: You have just heard one successful assignment completed by the Zithandize Support Group. This group started with just a few sickly members. But through perseverance, its members are now mostly healthy and strong because they support each other to face the challenges of HIV and AIDS. The group has now extended its work to other less fortunate groups, especially in the surrounding rural areas, where it encourages HIV-positive people to grow soybeans and thereby improve their nutritional status.

Knowing how good nutrition can lead to better farm output and incomes, the response has been tremendous, especially among the rural poor.

This sort of initiative can be adopted anywhere by HIV-positive people who are facing nutritional challenges. It also has the potential to receive government support for soybean cultivation and processing, while donors might help with capital equipment like grain mills for processing the soybeans and making the HEPS.

HIV positive people anywhere should try it to achieve a healthy productive life for themselves!

Signature tune fade up full and out

Occupational and nutritional therapy for people living with HIV and AIDS

Mphana: 30-year-old widow and mother of three
Ngopokin: 8 years old, first child and son of Mphana, orphaned by death of father
Mphor: 6 years old, second child and daughter of Mphana
Mateboho: 4 years old, daughter of Mphana and last child
Mputsoe: teacher and active member, HIV support group, Maseru
Modise: an elderly participant in the seminar on income generation and people new to HIV drugs
Moshoeshoe: administrative officer of the support group which Mphana joins.

Presenter: Hello and welcome to our radio show, Everyday People. I am your regular presenter, Malepekola Sejane. The following is a mini-drama; I will start by giving you a short summary of this true-to-life drama. This is the story of Mphana. Mphana is a widowed mother of three who recently lost her husband to an AIDS-related illness. She later tested positive for HIV at a government clinic. She began antiretroviral therapy and has been doing well health-wise. Luckily, her three children tested negative. Her major challenge has been her joblessness and her daily struggle to feed and pay the school fees of her three children. Then one day, things took a dramatic turn for the better when her son was brought home by his teacher for unpaid school tuition. This marked the introduction of Mphana to a network of people living positively with HIV and AIDS.

Signature tune. Fade and hold under presenter.

Presenter: On today’s episode of Everyday People, we will be taking a look at a very sensitive issue that affects women in society. Let me get the ball rolling by asking you a question. (Pause) How would you feel if you were an HIV-positive and jobless woman, and the breadwinner of your family passed away? Give me your thoughts. I will be back in a moment with the story of Mphana and her colleagues. We will hear how they were able to weather the storm. I remain your anchor on radio, Malepekola Sejane.

Signature tune up and out

Presenter: Back to my question. What would you do if you were an HIV-positive woman, had no job, and your husband passed away, leaving behind three children? How would you cope? Well, that is the dilemma of Mphana, a housewife with three children whose husband died of an illness related to AIDS. Let’s take a peep into Mphana’s life. Let’s see how she has been coping with life two years after her husband’s demise.

Sound of woman singing a local tune, poking wood in the fire

Mateboho: (Yawning) Mummy, I am hungry!

Mphana: (Exasperated, trying to assert her authority) Will you shut up, Mateboho, and wait for the food to get ready? Can’t you see how the fire is burning my hands? Take this cob of maize. Eat it and drink a lot of water. Take this second and give it to your elder sister Mphor. Make sure you don’t eat her piece! Then we wait until God provides. Wait till I return from the farm.

Mateboho: But what if God refuses to give us anything?

Mphana: (Reassuringly) God who made the mouths – that includes yours, Mateboho’s, Ngopokin’s, Mphor’s and mine – will definitely feed them all, my gal. Smile for mummy, will you? That’s my gal.

Mphor: Mummy, have you taken your medications? I didn’t see you swallow the pills this morning.

Mphana: (Giving her daughter a big hug, shedding tears) My guardian angel, what would I do in this world without you? I was busy trying to cook something for you and almost forgot them.  Please, go inside the bedroom and bring me the container of pills. Thank you.

Mphana: (Summoning her guardian angel) Fetch me some water too, Mphor!

Sound of water gurgling into a cup, then sound of footsteps as Mphor hands over the cup to her mum

Mphana: (Swallowing hard) Thank you. Now I can face my (cut short) … Who’s that coming home with Ngopokin? Is he not supposed to be in class?

Mphor: (Grunting) Oh oh! This doesn’t look good. I think he is with his class teacher.

Presenter: So what happened next to this hardworking mother of three? Please stay tuned.  I’ll be back after a short commercial time out.

Music/advert fades up, then down and out

Presenter: Welcome back to Everyday People, your educating and entertaining program. Before the break, we witnessed Mphana, the widowed mother of three, face some challenges. Let us join her as she receives an unexpected visitor.

Sound of footsteps approaching

Mputsoe: (Coming on mic) Lumela meh (Editor’s note: pronounced “Du-me-la meh,” which means “Good morning, madam”). How do you do?

Mphana: E-e! I am doing well. And you? (Editor’s note: E-e! is a verbal mannerism common in the Basotho culture. It is a respectful way of acknowledging a greeting, a way of saying “um hmm” or “yes.”

Mputsoe: So-so, but we thank God. Are you Ngopokin’s mother, please?

Mphana: E-e! Yes, I am. Is there any problem with my boy?

Mputsoe: Not really. I am his teacher. Mputsoe is my name. I must say your child is brilliant in class. (Turning sharply) Hey, Ngopokin, will you stop making faces at your siblings? But that is not what I came here to talk to you about. I was sent on behalf of the school to tell you that he has unpaid school fees for the second and third term. You now owe the school 350 Lesothan Loti. The school feels he should remain at home until all his fees are paid. I am sorry; I’m only a messenger.

Mphana: (Pause) Well, thank you. I know he owes that much. You see, I tried to make a vegetable garden to make some money. Unfortunately, we ate up most of it. I used the little I could sell to purchase his new sandals and the exercise books you see him carrying.

Mputsoe: I am so sorry about your late husband. Your son told me about your predicament. Permit me to say I can see we have something else in common.

Mphana: (Perplexed and anxious) What would that be apart from womanhood (burst of nervous laughter)?

Mputsoe: Well yeah, that’s right. Excuse me if I am intruding on your privacy. Those drug containers in your hands – they look exactly like mine. I am also HIV-positive. I have been on ARVs for five years now. I’m not doing badly, am I?

Mphana: That is interesting. Good to hear that. I have been on them barely two years.

Mputsoe: I think we have met at the right time. I am the leader of an HIV support group in the next village. A number of us widows have the same kind of problem, namely, feeding our children, clothing ourselves, paying school fees. My sister, the burden is too much.

Mphana: My sister, you have scratched me where it itches me most. I thought I was the only one suffering in silence. All my in-laws and relatives have abandoned me and the kids to our fate.

Mputsoe: You are not alone. We have actually started forming a larger support group involving our two villages and five neighbouring villages, all around the Maluti Mountains. We have recruited over 40 widows and 20 married women, all living positively with HIV and AIDS. We are involved in farming. We have a co-operative society that gives loans to assist our members. Do you want to join us this afternoon at the Heso Centre near King Moshoeshoe the Great’s Cemetery?

Mphana: E-e!With all pleasure! I will be there for the meeting even before you get there.

Fade in local musical instruments, then fade out

Presenter: In the concluding part of this program, we will hear how Mphana joined this network of women. We will also hear how the support group has improved the socio-economic status and well-being of not only those living with HIVand AIDS, but the neighbouring communities as well. Please, don’t go away.
Fade in local musical instrument playing, then fade out

Mputsoe: Ah, my sister Mphana. You beat me to the meeting! You are welcome. Let’s get inside. I want you to meet the administrative officer who will register you. It’s free. Then later, we meet the other participants.

Mphana: E-e! Ke leboha! (Editor’s note: Thank you).

Moshoeshoe: Please have a seat. To register, I need a record of your family history: name, marital status, number of children, your educational history, and so on. I will also need your medical history in brief. This will be kept confidential. If you can later get us a medical report from your hospital, it would be easier.

Mphana: That is okay by me. Problem is … (shyly) I have no money to pay for the medical report.

Moshoshoe: Never mind. I will give you some money from our funds to cover transport and the medical report. Meanwhile, you can choose which area of our activities you want to start on. You can choose to work in the orchard or the piggery or the restaurant or the organic farm. Or maybe you could help in facilitating workshops, or even assist in the administration of the office or the rentals.

Mphana: Did you say facilitating workshops? No, not me. I cannot stand before a sea of eyes and talk! God knows, my vocal cords would fail me. (Laughter) I would rather give the pig farming a try. I just have a primary school certificate.

Moshoeshoe: That’s good. We will give you a soft loan. You will run the animal farm here on our premises. You can use all our equipment free of charge. You will then remit to the organization on a pay-as-you-earn basis. When you pay back the whole loan, the pigs are all yours.

Mphana: Just like that?

Moshoeshoe: Just like that! That is one of the ways we generate income here. We are self-sufficient. We receive no help from external sources. Of course, if you later wish to change your area of specialization, you can still do that. You can work in the rental unit where you can rent out the accommodation and the conference hall for an affordable fee. You can also choose to join our group of farmers and do farming, or market the farm produce.

Mphana: How about working in the restaurant? I pride myself on being an excellent cook. I will definitely win over new customers.

Moshoeshoe: (Smacking his lips, perceiving the imaginary aroma of a delicious meal) Uhmmmmnnnn! I can’t wait to taste your food! Do I take it you want a change from piggery to the restaurant?

Mphana: (Warm heartedly) Oh no! Piggery is definitely more profitable. I rear them, sell some of them, and make some money to pay you guys back your loan. Then I have some pigs of my own. What more can I ask for?

Music interlude fades to women singing in local dialect, sound of hoeing in the background, grunts of pigs

Mputsoe: Mphana, could you help me with that pail? No, that one with the corn husks. Yes! Thank you. How many pigs have you fed?

Mphana: E-e!I have fed 15. Those piglets in pen 12 are still breastfeeding. When they are done, I will feed their mother. Meanwhile, I want to go to the organic farm. I’ve got some potatoes and pumpkins to harvest. I need some for those hungry monsters called my children (laughing).

Mputsoe: Thank God I’m not alone. Don’t forget the principle of a balanced diet. Get them some pork from the abattoir. We can always deduct it from your salary at the end of the month.

Mphana: E-e! Ke leboha!(Editor’s note: pronounced “Kia-le bo-ha” which means Thank you!)

Women singing a boisterous song in Sesotho. Fade and hold under speakers.

Modise: Hey, Teacher Mputsoe, we twenty two participants have just finished the counselling course for those new to their medication, and the income-generating training for village men and women. Can we walk in the garden now, just to relax our nerves and breathe in more fresh air?

A participant: Ntate Modise, I have not been in a classroom since my high school. My brain’s got rusty for classroom brouhaha! I could use some more oxygen (Editor’s note:Ntate is a polite Sesotho word for Mister).

Mputsoe: (Laughing) I guess you lousy bunch should go for your stress-alleviating and depression-lifting walk around the orchard! The members of the second group from Leribe and Mohale villages are waiting to start their session. Could you please vacate the hall? Can I get an “E-e!” in the house?

Chorus: E-e-e-e-e!

Signature tune up, then fade and hold in the background

Presenter: The Heso Centre’s occupational therapy program has created jobs for over 200 people in five villages. Families have made positive changes to their diet, increased their earning capacity, managed their stress better, and adopted farming as an occupational therapy. In fact, the Centre has built its own conference hall with local materials. It also has five-bed lodging with modern furnishing, a home-based care facility with units for maternal and child health care, a piggery with capacity for 50 animals, organic farms, an orchard, a nutrition centre and more than 10 hectares of farmland. For more enquiries, please contact the centre at +266-58752797.

Fade up signature tune for two seconds, then under presenter

Presenter: This wraps up today’s edition. I hope you have been inspired by the stories of the people you have heard. Stay tuned for the next episode of Everyday People on this same station, same time. Have a pleasant evening. I remain your presenter, Malepekola Sejane.

Fade up signature tune, hold, then fade out