CHITUNGWIZA, Zimbabwe, July 29 (IPS) – In 2001, when Reki Jimu was 30 years old, his wife died at the age of 27.
Jimu, now 51, said the couple’s two sons died prematurely. Both were underweight and frail, although the couple previously had a baby girl named Faith Jimu, now a 29-year-old mother of three.
Jimu was born in the Central Mashonaland province of Zimbabwe in Mazowe Citrus Estate, with his country house located in the Mukumbura area of the province in the village of Chigawo.
Two years after his wife, Tendai Goba, died after a very long illness, which he attributed to her weight loss, Jimu was tested for HIV and was found positive.
“My wife, Tendai, who died in 2001, was unable to fight AIDS, although we have no evidence since then that she suffered from the disease. Jimu told IPS.
The diagnosis didn’t discourage him – although he did face a lot of disapproval from relatives, friends and colleagues.
Jimu said: “When I started losing weight, people said that I was fascinated by my brother, who they thought was the goblin sucking my blood.
He said the incident started while his wife and two sons were still alive.
“Some of the naysayers were even blunt in their statements in the early days when my wife was ill, when our son was still alive. People say my sons are very thin because they have AIDS. We will listen to this and never say anything in return. But of course, our sons died prematurely because they were all underweight (but) before we knew they had HIV,” said Jimu.
But thank God, the couple’s daughter, Jimu, was born before the couple contracted HIV/AIDS and went on to live without the disease and is now a parent.
However, Jimu, even when his first wife kicked in the bucket, never gave up on life.
Currently residing in Chitungwiza, a town 25 kilometers southeast of the Zimbabwean capital Harare, in 2003, shortly after testing positive for HIV, Jimu immediately started drug treatment. antiviral, and that kept him going for nearly two decades.
In fact, for nearly two decades, Jimu, 51, has been living with HIV/AIDS, sticking to his antiretroviral treatment without fail.
Thanks to his belief in ART, Jimu now looks like any other healthy person.
“Look, I look good. No one can say I’m HIV positive. No one would know I was on ARVs unless I told them myself,” said Jimu.
He went on with life despite being HIV positive.
In 2007, Jimu became the founder, leader and pastor of the Christian Fellowship Network, a support group that he says has become pivotal in assisting people living with HIV and AIDS in Chitungwiza.
Jimu said he got married again a year after testing positive with the help of HIV/AIDS support groups.
Francisca Thomson, his second wife of the same age, is also living with HIV.
“Francisca is my queen, a very beautiful girl, I can tell you, and we are very happy together,” boasted Jimu.
Jimu said he, like any other normal person, has become a ray of hope for many people living with HIV.
He says he has become open about his HIV/AIDS status at a time when the public loathes people like him and when HIV/AIDS stigma is rampant.
“I was one of those people who appeared on national television on an HIV/AIDS commercial in which I said I didn’t run a red light… I am a pastor… I am HIV positive, the the advertisement in it is sponsored by Population Services International,” said Jimu
Now a famous fighter against HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, Jimu cannot contain his gratitude for the Chitungwiza General Hospital here, which he says has made him who he is – an HIV/AIDS peer educator.
Zimbabwe has about 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS.
Living with HIV does not force Jimu to live in a cocoon.
Instead, he says the condition has merely made him an ardent defender of many others.
“I am currently very active providing routine counseling and spiritual guidance services to the many people who have recently tested positive for HIV and see me with the positive mindset I have. Many people are quickly adjusting to being HIV positive and moving on with their lives, says Jimu.
However, for Jimu, it is not easy to get the current position.
He said he has faced stigma over the years, saying many people around him feel disgusted just seeing him sick.
Jimu said landlords quickly kicked him out of the house when they learned of his condition.
“As a tenant in many of the homes I have lived in, I will get notices to leave quickly because people are afraid to live with me thinking that one day I will wake up and die in their home or infect them with HIV. I will hear people gossip about my illness, some say that I am now a moving skeleton, some urge me to visit the oracles for healing, some say that I must return village and die there,” said Jimu.
However, over the years, things have gotten better, and Jimu says his loved ones have begun to accept him.
However, in the past, he had to face all kinds of derision and discrimination from both relatives and relatives.
“Hated and discriminated against are things I have encountered at church, at work, and elsewhere. At many of the gatherings we attended with our late wife, we would have to back our seats because people were embarrassed to let us sit in the front seats, obviously embarrassed by our appearance. us because of the signs of illness in our bodies,” recalls Jimu.
But that is a thing of the past now.
As more and more people living with HIV begin to find it easier to live with the disease, Jimu has a message for them.
“I encourage people with HIV to take their medicine for the prescribed time without default even if they feel healthy and well,” he said.
And he carries an almost similar message for those who are about to get married.
“I urge couples to get tested for HIV before having sex. Jimu said: If one person is found positive, they can be supported by medical professionals to stay healthy without infecting each other.
Report of the United Nations Office IPS
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