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Apostolic sects unite to fight HIV and AIDS
Margaret Chinowaita, Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN)
Extracted from WASN Newsletter - March 2005
March 2005

THE issues of condom use and other preventative measures of transmitting HIV, which used to be taboo in the Apostolic sect are now being talked about openly leading to positive behavioural change especially among the men.

It was unheard of for Apostolic men to use condoms or have only one wife but with the advent of HIV and AIDS, which does not, discriminate on who gets it, the men are changing through an organisation called Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa, (UDACIZA).

WASN was happy to have one of the UDACIZA members, Nyuwere Mangwiro participating at its workshop on the replication of the model on HIV and AIDS prevention from a gender specific perspective held in Mutare last year.

In an interview with Mangwiro the Union’s coordinator in Manicaland based in Murambinda, WASN learnt that the organisation was formed in 1993 after the realisation that members of the Apostolic sect were also being affected and infected with HIV and AIDS.

“We saw that in us Apostolic people we were not addressing our health and gender issues hence we were falling prey to HIV and AIDS. That’s when we decided to form this union,” said Mangwiro.

The union comprises of Apostolic churches of those who wear white gowns. It is spread in all provinces of the country.

The union conducts HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns to its members. It imparts communication skills, gender and women empowerment, counselling and Home Based Care.

“In the beginning we were not going to clinics but now we are visiting them to get treatment. This has come with understanding that there are diseases that need medication from clinics,” said Mangwiro.

The men are now using condoms in polygamous relationships. Some are no longer marrying young girls as used to be the case. This has lessened the spread of HIV and AIDS among people in these churches.

People from the Apostolic churches are now agreeing to voluntary counselling and testing of HIV allowing them to seek early treatment if they are found to be positive. This has lessened deaths among the sect.

Mangwiro is 55 and married to two wives said personally he is engaging in non-risk behaviour and he does not plan to have another wife as used to be the tradition in his church. He belongs to Zvapupu ZvaJesu Apostolic Faith in Murambinda.

The organisation is getting support from the National AIDS Council so it can broaden its coverage and bring awareness to more people from the sect.

According to a report published by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and the National AIDS Council in May 2004, the death toll from AIDS has been high and it continues to rise.

In 1988, about 12, 000 persons died from AIDS. Fifteen years later in 2003, about 177, 000 Zimbabweans died as a result of the disease. Already in 2003, more than 485 Zimbabweans of all ages were dying every single day of the year because HIV has destroyed the ability of their immune systems to resist opportunistic infections.

Members of the apostolic sect are obviously part of the above statistics but with their interventions some might not succumb to AIDS but be free from it and live longer.

UDACIZA was among ten organisations that signed memoranda of understanding with WASN to replicate the model on HIV and AIDS prevention from gender specific interventions.

WASN hope the organisation will replicate the model and help fight HIV and AIDS from a gender specific perspective thus creating an atmosphere where women and girls enjoy their full sexual and reproductive health and rights in this era of HIV and AIDS.

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