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Galz Positive Support Group, reaching out to many
Samuel Matsikure, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
Extracted from Galzette, January 2008

Galz Positive support group was formed after well-known members from the gay society in the early 90s were succumbing to HIV complications. This jolted the community from their party, carefree world and to take note of the seriousness of HIV/AIDS. Contributing to the deaths of most gay men were denial of status, ignorance about the virus coupled by stigma, discrimination, homophobia by family members and society. Family members neglected them in their time of need, hence they had no support and care

Faced with such a daunting situation, Galz volunteers and Counselors teamed up to organise themselves so as to provide home based care, pre, post test counselling and on-going counselling for members who had disclosed their status to the counselors within the organisation. Support when one was sick at home, in hospital or when they were bed-ridden being the focal point of the support group

Meanwhile, over the past years our counselling services have improved. Members are provided with more information on HIV/ AIDS gathered through discussion forums, conferences, workshops and the Internet. We have also been able to explore the possibilities of learning more on home based care, treatment, prevention, positive living (body, soul and mind and nutrition for the survival of the member. The message: 'HIV is death' changed to: 'Healthy living and long time survival of people living with HIV'.

Achievements

Members within the group who are living positively with HIV attitudes and sexual behavior changing. Group members have managed to educate the gay community affiliated to Galz not to stigmatise and discriminate those that are HIV positive within the gay and lesbian community and outside. A few members who have been bed-ridden before the support group and knew of their condition were able to get care and treatment and are good testimonies of how the support group has assisted. The group has a herbal garden to help boost the immune system and fight other illnesses for a healthy living. They meet every two months for group discussions and also with the rest of Galz membership. Affinity groups have also benefited from the influence of the group and gained support through positive living information and testimonies from those living and affected with HIV/AIDS. The support group is there to embrace any Galz member whether one is positive or negative, disclosed their status or not.

Challenges

The group took many years to build owing to leadership problems and lack of commitment by some members. Maintaining confidentiality among the group members on one's status was a thorn issues for those within and outside the group. This hindered many from joining or disclosing their status so as to seek assistance. However this has since been rectified as we have some qualified and ethical counselors in the group. Calendar activities were at times neglected as members within the group lacked commitment and had no volunteer spirit. Members took time to realise the importance of teamwork to maintain the group's survival. Lack of enough funds for volunteer work and meetings was another obstacle.

Future Plans

Re-organisation of the group structure as present leadership is on temporary after the previous leadership left the positions. There will be training of members in Home based care. We hope to mobilize more resources for prevention, care, support and treatment for all Galz members


Positive Image scheme

This is a financial support scheme for Galz members who are HIV positive and have disclosed their status to the Health Department under confidentiality. This also covers the General medical aid +CD with CIMAS for those who are not on any medical aid from their employer or family. This is many for those who identify as other than Heterosexual within Galz. Members who are interested in joining the scheme can get in touch with The Health Department, which will under their own discretion assess the cases and give the final decision. Every HIV positive member within the organisation is entitled to access treatment without discrimination.

Challenges

Although this is a unique scheme. There are no adequate funds to sustain it. This scheme was an initiative of a well wisher committed to the survival of Galz members infected with HIV. With the increasing demand for drugs lately and the escalating cost of purchasing medication, we are faced with a major challenge to mobilise resources to save more lives.

Successes

Doctor Scott from the USA has managed to relieve the pressure on the little funds we have in Positive Image by supplying seven of our members with ARVs and Vitamins every three months. We have managed to provide ARVs, vitamins and food packages to those in dire need. The organisation has also managed to maintain the CIMAS medical aid scheme for those who require treatment.

Feel free to join the Positive Image Group. Anyone can join we are all affected by HIV/AIDS and it's up to us to take the leadership role in this fight.

Visit the GALZ fact sheet

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