My name is Loyce and I’m from Harare, Zimbabwe.
This year I celebrated my 24th birthday which in one way is a miracle. Because the truth is, at age 12 I was totally convinced I was going to die of AIDS.
You see, my mum and brother passed away within a week of each other when I was only 10 years old.
They both died of AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). I was completely devastated. Four years later, when I started to get sick myself, a test at the local clinic confirmed my worst fears. I too had HIV and TB. I thought there was no way I would survive.
But I was lucky and fortunately was able to get the treatment I needed. The difference for me was that wealthy countries had begun contributing to the newly set up Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund had begun providing donor funds through the Zimbabwe health system which it was also doing in many other affected countries. This meant my local clinic now had medical staff and medication to get me started on life-saving treatment for my TB (which is now cured) as well as on the medication for my HIV. I just wish the same support had been available for my mother and brother.
Even though it saved my life, the treatment for my TB was challenging to put it mildly. The number of pills I had to take every day overwhelmed me, and the physical side effects left me feeling sick and depressed. I also had to stop schooling for months, which severely affected my grades and made me feel even more low.
At the time of my diagnosis I didn’t know anything about HIV, AIDS or TB. People were dying all around me from these dreadful diseases and yet everyone seemed afraid to admit to their illness. I guess this was understandable because prejudice and stigma from the local community was relentless. What was even worse was the verbal abuse I suffered from my relatives. These were people who I believed were supposed to care for me unconditionally.
Living with HIV has been much more than just making sure I take my medication. It has also been about learning how to deal with the huge social adjustment. Getting involved with the support group through Africaid Zvandiri allowed me to speak openly and honestly about my story with people of my own age.
Hearing how others were living and dealing with the disease helped motivate me to keep moving forward. I now work as a peer support counsellor in Harare with young HIV-positive people and am also doing a certificate in community development at college. One day I’d like to get married and have a family. I want to have a really big wedding!
My life has forever been impacted by HIV and TB and these diseases are unfortunately a big part of my story. I’ve lived with my HIV status now for half my life. In that same time I’ve been able to watch the Global Fund’s impact grow in my country and around the world and be responsible for saving 8 million lives since 2002. One of those lives is mine and for that I am very grateful.
I’m grateful to people in Australia too because your Government has been a strong supporter of the Global Fund through the Australian aid program. I hope this support continue and grow when Australia is asked to make its next three year pledge to the Global Fund at a conference for donor countries being held in Canada next month.
Australian aid has played an important role in the life of a woman we reckon is the world’s coolest grandma. Post continues below.
When I think about the impact the Global Fund has had on my life, I still feel lucky. But this shouldn’t be about luck. I want everyone to be able to access to the treatment that gave me a chance to live beyond my 12th birthday. We need to continue fighting diseases that no one should be dying from anymore.
Loyce Maturu was born with HIV in her native Zimbabwe where mother to child transmission is the highest cause of HIV infection. Currently, of the 1.4 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 840,000 of these people are on treatment through Global Fund-financed programs.
Since 2009, Loyce has been working with Africaid as a peer counsellor for children, adolescents and young people living with HIV. She is also a member of the Communities Delegation to the Board of the Global Fund and part of the speaker’s bureau of the Global Fund Advocates Network.
Loyce recently announced she is engaged to be married.
Loyce partnered with grassroots advocacy organisation RESULTS Australia for this article.
RESULTS is calling on the Australian government to commit $300 million to the Global Fund. To get involved in the campaign, contact [email protected]