Senefa Chinga’s bright smile hides memories of her life slipping away, when she was on the edge of becoming another AIDS death statistic in Zambia. But thanks to the strong support she got from community caregivers from Bwafwano Community Home-based Care Program in Chazanga compound in Lusaka, she turned adversity to her advantage.
After losing her husband to AIDS nearly eight years ago, 43-year-old Senefa, a mother of four children, faced the bleak prospect of raising her children alone as the sole breadwinner. In 2002, she joined Bwafwano as a volunteer caregiver, but could not keep up with the demands as she fell sick all too often. She remained in denial when nudged by fellow caretakers to get tested for HIV infection – the fear of being driven from her community and facing starvation with her children due to the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS prevented her from seeking her HIV status. So Senefa waited. After three years of chronic illness, Senefa finally decided to get tested for HIV. In 2006 Senefa began taking anti-retroviral drugs and has regained her health and is doing well.
“It was because of the encouraging words, care and support during my trying moments at Bwafwano that I finally decided to know my HIV status,” she says. “Today, I am on anti-retroviral therapy and my children are at Bwafwano Community School.”
Through support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and a partnership with Project Concern International and the BELONG Project, Bwafwano has been one of the first projects to successfully integrate a range of orphan and vulnerable children services into its home-based care program. The program has leveraged food aid from the World Food Program, and has created a strong link to local government health services for anti-retroviral drugs.
In the past few months, Senefa has learned to run a second-hand clothing business to meet household needs. With a bounce in her voice, she exclaims: “It’s amazing, Bwafwano has managed to keep me alive and as for my children, I can’t imagine what they would have been without this organization.”
Bwafwano currently serves 650 orphans and vulnerable children and supports 565 adults and children on anti-retroviral drugs.