57-year-old Chido Samanga is an Outreach Worker (OW) from Mutasa district supporting people living with HIV (PLHIV) around Hauna District Hospital. Chido tested positive to HIV in 2007 and was commenced on antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the same year. Her husband died in 2008 after a long illness.
Chido was determined to live a healthy life, her 6 children were still young, and she felt she had the responsibility to fend for them. In 2015 Chido was identified as one of the ‘good’ clients who adhered to their medication, lived a healthy life, and had their viral load suppressed. The nurse at Hauna District Hospital recommended her to be an Outreach Worker supported by USAID through FHI 360. Five years later, Chido joined Zimbabwe Health Interventions (ZHI) and she continues with her work supporting PLHIV in her community.
Hauna is a mountainous area, communities are difficult to access using a bicycle, but Chido never gives up on her mission. “People live far away from each other, some houses are built on mountain tops, but I am never discouraged, I brave even the harsh weather conditions characterising my area to save lives.”
People living with HIV should be supported to live long:
“No one should die of HIV, with support people can live long and realise their dreams. I always use my story to inspire my peers to take their HIV medication correctly and consistently.”
As an outreach worker, Chido’s role is to support PLHIV to adhere to their treatment and remain in care: “I facilitate that they have access to HIV services such as viral load testing, cervical cancer, and tuberculosis (TB) screening.” She also supports treatment continuity by supporting the documentation of patients that interrupt treatment and support the tracking and tracing processes, facilitate scale up of HIV testing and ART differentiated delivery service delivery models and offer psychosocial support.
Chido has lived to see her grandchildren: “I am still going strong; my children are all now grown-ups and I have 12 grandchildren. I will make every effort to support PLHIV to soldier on, HIV is not a death penalty.”
Agnes Maisiri (60years) like Chido started volunteering as an outreach worker with FHI 360 in 2015 supporting PLHIV around Headlands clinic in Mutasa district. A grandmother of 6, Agnes, affectionately known as Mbuya Svondo started taking HIV medication 20 years ago and she continues to live a heathy life.
“Since I started taking ARVs I have never looked back. I am now a role model to my peers who look up to me for information and support on HIV testing, care, and treatment services. Over the years that I have volunteered as an outreach worker, I have acquired skills to engage communities promoting HIV testing and supporting those who are living with HIV to adhere to their medication, and access HIV care services.”
The ZHI ACCE program, supported by USAID through PEPFAR has a total of 192 outreach workers in 9 districts of Manicaland and Midlands provinces of Zimbabwe. As the program promotes access to HIV testing, care, and treatment services, it relies strongly on support from outreach workers to reach out to PLHIV living in different communities.