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Stigma and discrimination: The disclosure, pain and hope
December 01, 2005
public about one's HIV status is seen as the right thing to do.
It helps to fight the stigma and discrimination. Or so we are told.
But when your mother tells the whole nation that she is positive,
how do you come to terms with every child at school knowing this
Both Farai Mahoso
and Olivea Kusemwha grappled with this question when their mothers
came out as HIV positive.
Mahaso is the son of the late Auxillia Chimusoro. Ms Chimusoro was
the first person in Zimbabwe to openly disclose the fact that she
was HIV positive. This was back in 1989 when silence around HIV
and AIDS prevailed. For young Farai his mother's disclosure did
not go down well with him in the beginning. "I suggested to
her that she could just tell the world she had been bewitched and
we could get on with our lives," he said. Ordinary activities
like walking in the township in Masvingo became difficult for Farai.
"It was like when a football star walks in town, everybody
points their fingers saying that's the famous footballer. But for
me it was the other way round." Farai was seen as the face
of AIDS and people would shout out that he is the son of the woman
who is HIV positive.
HIV/AIDS activist Tendayi Westerhoff's daughter, Olivea, was equally
frustrated by her mother's disclosure. Olivea said that she was
very angry the first day her mum went public about her status. "Just
imagine everyone knowing that your mum is HIV positive. I felt really
uncomfortable with it," she said.
Going to school
for Olivea became hell on earth as her fellow students made cuttings
from the newspaper about the comments her mother had been making
about her status. She said people who she thought were her friends
turned out to be back stabbers. But now Olivea says she is no longer
bothered about her mums HIV status and some of her friends have
come to understand that it can happen to anyone.
This year Tendai
Westerhof was honored with the Auxillia Chimusoro Award for her
courage and openness, which has encouraged frank discussions on
HIV and AIDS issues.
Chimusoro Award honors the work of Farai's mother who died of AIDS
after dedicating her life to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. The
Auxillia Chimusoro Award was established by USAID in 2000 and the
annual ceremony is organised by the Zimbabwe Aids Policy and Advocacy
And today, Farai
works in the HIV/AIDS sector as the Programme Officer for Batanai
HIV/AIDS support group based in Masvingo, an organisation started
by his late mother.
Olivea and Farai are just two of the many people who have had to
come to terms with the reality of HIV/AIDS. They say that they have
been inspired by the work of their mothers. Going public about one's
status is not an easy road, but for some letting the world know
what is going on in their lives means that they might help save
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