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ZIMBABWE

Zimbabwe’s health system is currently experiencing numerous difficulties due to the prevailing harsh economic conditions and reduced donor support, hindering the progress of the national response to the epidemic. The shortage of human resources is one of the major constraints, as trained health personnel continue to immigrate to other countries and a growing number of other health workers succumb to HIV/AIDS. Shortages of drugs and supplies comprise another major constraint essentially due to high and rising costs, the inadequate availability of foreign exchange reserves and fragmented procurement and distribution systems for drugs and supplies. Additional laboratory support (especially with regard to equipment and reagents) is required. The policy framework for expanding antiretroviral therapy services needs to be developed, including policies regarding payment of antiretroviral therapy services, social criteria for setting priorities among people receiving treatment in the public sector and workplace antiretroviral therapy programmes. Links between testing and counselling services and services for preventing mother-to-child transmission and antiretroviral therapy need to be strengthened. The treatment of children and training guidelines for this need to be developed. Stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS remains one of the biggest obstacles to the effective treatment and care of people infected and affected by HIV.
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TODAY FOR TOMORROW
HOPE for AIDS Zimbabwe knows that Prevention is a vital piece to restoring health and dignity to people affected and infected by HIV. We look to educate and empower children, youth and adults to eradicate stigma and practice wise and whole living.

Volunteers for the program work hard to keep it sustainable. They harvest peanuts in March, grind them and sell jars of Peanut Butter to the community to support the kids activities and nourishment.

For children 12 years and younger, we use a holistic approach to create awareness of HIV and AIDS issues among children. In a 3 year curriculum, children develop a value system that helps them avoid contracting HIV. Children in church do the curriculum on Sundays while children in school do it at or after school during the week.

Adults and teenagers are taught primarily in the churches. At conferences, services and church meetings, leadership teams have agreed that at least 2 hours should be devoted to HIV Prevention Content.

We focus on reaching the whole child through a lesson curriculum which incorporates material and activities focusing on all aspects of a child’s life: spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. The program runs midweek for all children in the community regardless of religion, race or economic position. All our programs are run by volunteers who we train from the local churches. Our core team offers a minimum of 4 days intensive training either to train the implementer or trainers.

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ORPHAN CARE
In Zimbabwe, the HOPE for AIDS team supports orphans and vulnerable children with assistance in home care (for those child-headed homes), nutrition, school fees and basic education in lifeskills.
Volunteers in each community help kids fetch firewood, wash laundry, cook meals, everything that needs to be done to keep kids healthy. We supply milk formula to infants orphaned while breastfeeding or those whose mothers are advised not to nurse due to their HIV status. We also train neighbors in how to care for the children around them. Families and community/church volunteers are given goats for nutritional supply. They are trained on how to milk and keep goats (goat milk in Zimbabwe is more affordable, sustainable and available than the traditional alternatives). This, along with food packs (mealie meal, dried fish, beans, cooking oil), is filling the bellies of 12,900 children on Zimbabwe dirt roads and hot streets.
The HOPE for AIDS team is also providing seed and fertilizer for children to grow their own crops. So far we have helped 5 communities develop cooperative gardens for their kids and babies in need. Of these 5, 180 children take turns to get vegetables from the garden each week. We are looking to develop 4 new gardens in the next year.
The school drop out rate among orphans in Zimbabwe is a staggering 80%. And, use of foreign currency which many rural folks cannot access is forcing many vulnerable children out of school. HOPE for AIDS tries to keep these children in school by paying their school fees and supplying exercise books and pens. When school is out, the team holds “Life Skills” Camps for children in each community. Each year, they look forward to games, sports, lessons and good counsel.
The Zimbabwe team cares for vulnerable children as their own. Well in body, mind and spirit, the kids in town know where their safe place is.
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HOME-BASED CARE
Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Southern Africa that has been worst affected by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The first case of HIV infection was established in 1985 and ten years later (1995) the national prevalence rate was 25% (in some localities it was 33%). Although this rate reduced to 18% by 2007 (thanks to successful interventions), the impact of HIV infection remains very high. Many adults continue to leave children orphaned. The school drop out rate for orphaned children is very high. A lot of people that need ARVs cannot access them because they are unaffordable and government institutions are limiting admission of new cases. The harsh economic conditions have resulted in a serious brain drain that has left most hospitals without a doctor. As a result a lot of sick people are at homes, under the care of untrained relatives and children. A program like ours is necessary to alleviate pain and suffering among people and restore hope because of Christ.

Any given night at 3 am, Brenda (Zimbabwe Home-Based Care Team Leader) receives a call from someone in need in the Mutare area. She may need to bandage a wound, set-up an IV or simply help someone bathe. She and her trained volunteers in 4 districts throughout Zimbabwe are known for their knowledge of healthy living and their confidence in supporting local people living with AIDS. The Mutare based Home-Based Care program establishes teams in churches throughout the region to care for and teach communities how to care for one another. They encourage their neighbors to be tested for HIV, help them find accessible treatment and share good practices with those on ARV treatment. Each team member assists families with food supplements, school fees, herbal remedies for common side effects and training for proper hygiene for caring for someone with AIDS.

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CHURCH COORDINATION
The strength of community in Zimbabwe towns resides with the church. HOPE for AIDS aims to challenge the churches to take responsibility for HIV and AIDS Care, Prevention and Education in order to maintain sustainability.
Most churches now have teaching on HIV and AIDS in their preaching schedule and regularly take up a collection to support the work. Angela (our Enabling Officer) seeks out churches not yet recognizing HIV and AIDS accountability and seeks to establish church committees at the local and distric levels to oversee the work. Each church integrates all the components of the HOPE for AIDS efforts (Home-Based Care, Orphan Care and Prevention). Operating teams are trained to raise funds, keep accounting books, write project proposals, and other skills required to keep a multi-disciplinary program successful. We also teach a module on HIV and AIDS yearly at a Bible College (Rusitu Bible College) to equip training pastors with information so that they will establish or continue the HIV and AIDS ministry when they begin in their new ministry positions.
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INCOME GENERATION
The HOPE for AIDS team in Zimbabwe works to alleviate human suffering in Zimbabwe caused by unemployment and lack of regular income. Unemployment is at a staggering 80% and the majority of people live from informal sector activities. This has hit vulnerable populations the most. This work trains orphans and vulnerable Children that have completed school, people living with HIV and volunteers (the majority of whom are widows) in doing income generating activities following business principles so that they and the beneficiaries of HOPE for AIDS work will benefit.

The team starts by identifyng skills the beneficiaries have and organising them to form groups to start their own income generating activities. Following, they help to find professional in the community who can assist with business strategies and training. And, finally, they work to provide starting capital for the business to ensure that they are self sustainable.

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