In October, Munashe Mhaka, a Zimbabwean AfNHi youth mentorship cohort member reached out to young people at the University of Zimbabwe and created a WhatsApp group link for them to join. The theme of discussion was “HIV and ME,” and the first discussion was on HIV and AIDS. This aimed to increase young people’s knowledge on the basic facts about HIV and AIDS and to distinguish between the facts and myths of HIV and AIDS, as well as to get rid of any myths that they might have heard about HIV.
The session also aimed to help participants understand the process of HIV testing, to weigh the pros and cons of having an HIV test, and knowing where to get HIV testing services. They discussed HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC); What it is, how it reduces HIV risk, and its benefits. The discussion went on to further focus on the barriers and facilitators to HIV Testing, so as to help participants understand the reasons why adolescent girls and young women go or do not go for HIV testing. This expanded into issues of disclosure and stigma. They looked at issues involved in supporting People Living With HIV (PLHIV) to disclose their status, and the difficulties involved with disclosing someone’s HIV status and how-to better support PLHIV. Participants were left with an understanding of why disclosing one’s HIV status is important and to know the effects of stigma and how they can be overcome. The session was a guide to participants to know the truth about living with HIV and supporting those who are living with HIV.
The expectation was that at the end of the program, the young people would:
- Be open in discussing HIV and AIDS issues
- Be able to reflect on their risk to HIV contraction
- Feel encouraged to go for HIV Testing
- Encourage others to go for HIV testing
- Speak out against stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV
- Have a deeper understanding of what it means to be living with HIV
The group members managed to link up at the University Sports grounds, and had a physical session discussing SRHR issues.