"Access to treatment is access to life"
How Bonani in Zimbabwe is fighting stigma and discrimination to HIV and AIDS
Like many young people growing up in sub-Saharan Africa, Bonani has lost family and friends to HIV and AIDS. For the last eight years he’s been speaking out and encouraging others to join the fight in tackling the epidemic.
Growing up in Zimbabwe in the 1980’s, Bonani lost many of his childhood friends and family members to AIDS. He could see clearly the stigma and discrimination that surrounded the disease, which was demonstrated at the ‘Anti-AIDS’ clubs formed at his school. However, it wasn’t until his popular brother T.J. and his wife fell ill to AIDS that Bonani more personally experienced the stigma and discrimination the local community, and even close family, demonstrated to Bonani’s brother. The lack of understanding surrounding HIV and AIDS meant that a devastating conflict erupted between T.J. and his wife, both arguing that the other brought the virus into their home.
Lack of support and love
Both T.J. and his wife sadly passed away in 2004 leaving behind their three children. To this day Bonani blames the lack of support and love, as much as the lack of medical care, for his brother’s death. This highlights the role that lack of knowledge and understanding on HIV and AIDS causes, and the damage this alone can do.
Natasha, T.J.’s third child, was only 18 months old when she lost her father. A few months after T.J.’s death, she also fell ill and was tested positive for HIV. Natasha is now a healthy 7 year-old who often has to take antibiotics to starve off opportunistic infections. Bonani can’t help but wonder why a child is thinking about the right medication rather than playing with her friends; that she is thinking about a timetable of drugs not school work. As Bonani currently cares for his brother’s 3 children, he sees the importance of quality easy-to-take paediatric drugs, and the difference this can have on a child’s life.
Bonani joined Restless Development in order to take action against the lack of available treatment and drugs for people living with HIV. “Access to treatment is access to life” Bonani states. Bonani has been involved with Restless Development for eight years, starting as a volunteer and now as an Assistant Programme Coordinator.
Unite to Fight AIDS speaker tour
Bonani has been touring universities and schools in the UK as part of the Student Stop AIDS Campaign speaker tour, powered by Restless Development. The tour brings the voices of three young people affected by HIV or AIDS from across the world to talk first-hand about why tackling the spread of AIDS is so essential.