Act against Aids

Insights: Austin

Hope for children with HIV

Many children are receiving treatment at Newlands Clinic. Eight-year-old Austin always comes to appointments together with his mother and stepfather, and the clinic has become like a second home for the small family.

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1/5: HIV affects entire families: eight-year-old Austin, his mother Tivesi, and his step-father Jacob are all HIV-positive and patients at Newlands Clinic.

2/5: The regular appointments at the clinic have become part of the family's routine. Here the effectiveness of the treatment is checked, and strict adherence is essential.

3/5: Austin with his nurse, Tawanda, who is specially trained in the care of children and checks to see whether Austin's weight is developing normally.

4/5: Austin's father Jacob knows all about the therapy, and knows the importance of sticking to it. He keeps a note in a diary of when he takes his medication.

5/5: There's no table, so Austin does his homework on a crate. The clinic pays his school fees, which his parents would otherwise be unable to afford.
(Photos: Patrick Rohr)

At first glance, Austin is a normal boy like any other: he goes to school, likes to play football, and can't sit still for a minute. But there is one thing that sets him apart: Austin was born with HIV and will need therapy for the rest of his life.

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Life-saving treatment

When she gave birth to Austin, his mother Tivesi did not know she was carrying the virus. Her partner had left her, and she was all alone with a child that was getting sicker and sicker. Help finally came when Austin was three years old and a local organisation brought him to Newlands Clinic for an examination. Both Tivesi and Austin tested positive for HIV and began receiving the life-saving treatment.

They have since become a family of three: Newlands Clinic hasn't just provided Tivesi with medical aid, she also met her partner there. Jacob has also been a patient for many years. The small family live on the grounds of a former farm, where they grow maize and vegetables. But there are no paid jobs to be had anywhere nearby. To ensure that Austin can still go to school, the clinic covers the fees.

Learning step by step

The boy knows that he has small particles in his blood that would make him ill if he didn't take the medication, but he doesn't know yet that it is HIV. «He is still too young and care-free to understand», say his parents. They fear that he would talk about it, and could be bullied as a result. His nurse Tawanda will tell him all about HIV before he enters puberty. This is a painful moment in most cases, but with the help of his parents, Austin will find a way to live with the disease.

Insights: Magret and Rosaline

Fashioning a better future 

There was a time when Magret and Rosaline had nothing to do. Then they were able to set up a small company thanks to the vocational skills training programme for young people run by Newlands Clinic. «Unlimited Fashions» makes home textiles – and has opened up a whole new range of prospects for the young women.

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1/4: Magret (on the left) and Rosaline took part in the vocational skills training programme, and set up their own company together with a young man.

2/4: They cannot afford to pay rent, so their company is based for the time being in Magret's grandmother's living room.

3/4: The sewing machine was provided to the young patients as basic equipment. Their only problem is the frequent power cuts, but this should soon be solved with a solar panel.

4/4: "Unlimited Fashions" sells bedding, cushion covers and home textiles at local markets and to order.
(Photos: Patrick Rohr)

Magret and Rosaline meet us in Mbare, a high-density suburb of Harare. They want to show us their company "Unlimited Fashions", which they set up with a young man, Enoch. All three are patients at Newlands Clinic, but there is nothing apparent to suggest that they are HIV-positive and require life-long treatment.

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Magret, Rosaline and Enoch attended the vocational skills training programme aimed at helping young patients to support themselves. This is desperately needed because young people with HIV not only suffer from stigmatisation, they also have scarcely any career prospects given the dreadful state of the economy. «We just used to sit around all day,» says Magret. Many become depressed because of the difficult situation; young women often marry young and have children, even though they are unable to look after them.

The dream of running a shop

Both Magret and Rosaline already have a child, but they are fortunate in having a support network around them – and with Unlimited Fashions they now also have a small source of income. Competition is tough, but with the help of their mentor they are sticking at it. In the living room, cushion covers and bedding lie ready to be sold at the local market. Enoch is out buying material, Magret busy at the sewing machine, and Rosaline is getting the fabric ready. Their small children sleep in the next room.

«We would like to open a shop,» the young women tell us. There may be a lot of work still ahead, but they are clearly making the most of the opportunity that has presented itself.

Insights: Maize farmer Augustine

Back to life

The HIV/Aids epidemic has taken a heavy toll on Augustine’s family, but with the help of Newlands Clinic they should be able to get back on their feet again soon.

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1/6: Maize farmer Augustine lost his first wife to Aids. He, his daughter Gracious and his son Talent are all HIV positive and receiving treatment at Newlands Clinic.

2/6: To feed his family, Augustine grows maize, sweet potatoes and beans. Using the knowledge he learned at the maize farming project run by Newlands Clinic, he sows the seeds far enough apart to make sure the plants grow properly. His first grandchild watches on.

3/6: A severe drought caused problems for many of Newlands Clinic’s patients in 2016. The water level at the well Augustine uses to water his plants is also very low.

4/6: Augustine’s second wife Constance is HIV negative. The couple received comprehensive information at the clinic on how HIV is transmitted. If the virus is successfully suppressed by medication, infection can be virtually ruled out.

5/6: While Augustine’s son from his first marriage Talent (pictured here on the left) was infected with HIV at birth, his young son Trevor from his second marriage was born healthy. His first grandchild also came into the world HIV negative thanks to the treatment.

6/6: The family returns from their small fruit garden where they grow avocados, guavas and peaches. They are on the right track for a future free from HIV.
Photos: Patrick Rohr

Fields as far as the eye can see, the silence broken only by the occasional bark of a dog: in Chishawasha, a settlement near Harare, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the middle of the countryside. This is where Augustine lives with his patchwork family. HIV has turned their lives upside down: Augustine’s first wife died of Aids, and he and two of their children are HIV positive and are receiving treatment at Newlands Clinic.

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Providing for the family with maize farming

Augustine has now re-married and has a son. To feed his extended family, he grows maize, sweet potatoes and beans, but the harvest is often not enough – because it either rains much too much or hardly at all. To help address this, Newlands Clinic is running a maize farming project that provides support to 150 patients who own some land. Here Augustine has learned how to make compost, how to prepare the soil properly, and how to make sure the seeds are spread far enough apart when sowing. The first crop was only modest because of the drought, but the efficient farming technique seems to be paying off, and he should soon be able to provide for his wife and children.

The goal: an HIV-free generation

Things finally seem to be taking a turn for the better for Augustine and his family. His son Trevor is healthy, and his daughter Gracious also gave birth to an HIV negative boy thanks to the treatment. And this first grandchild will also benefit from Newlands Clinic’s support: Gracious is attending a self-help group for young mothers, where she is learning how to take better care of her son. Augustine’s family is on the right path to an HIV-free future.