Source: Scarred but unbowed by HIV | The Sunday Mail December 1, 2019
In 2007, Davies Mazodze made a life-changing decision: to tell the world the problem that was eating away his conscience and health.
For years, he had bottled up his secret.
But all that ended, when he featured on a ZBC TV commercial declaring that he was HIV positive.
“Imagine a grown-up man like me, weighing only 17kg …” his high-pitched voice boomed in the commercial.
Footage of this rare moment of disarming frankness, especially at a time when the disease was as dreaded as the plague, were wired in many people’s minds.
At the time, being HIV positive was considered to be a death sentence, with no chance of a reprieve.
However, 12 years later, the 54-year-old Mazodze, who is principal lecturer at the United College of Education (UCE) in Bulawayo, now believes that HIV is not only manageable, but can be conquered as well.
“As you can see, I am slowly ageing,” he says, as he touches his grey hair during an interview with The Sunday Mail.
“However, I remember a time when I weighed less than 20 kilogrammes and my CD4 count was about 17.
“I could not walk, so my wife carried me in her arms like a baby.
“Every minute that passed felt like the last one, I never thought I would live to see this very day.
“It was bad back then, lives were lost needlessly because of fear and stigmatisation.
“Being HIV positive was a death sentence. Once one tested positive it meant death, and most people died not because of the condition itself, but because of stigma and being terrified to ask for help.”
Born in 1965 in Gutu, Masvingo, Mazodze grew up listening the country’s first HIV-positive activist, Auxillia Chimusoro, who occasionally visited Mupandawana Growth Point to educate people on HIV/ AIDS.
He used to disinterestedly listen to her from afar as he never imagined himself in the same circumstances.
In 2003, Mazodze’s life came crashing down, or so he thought, when he was diagnosed with HIV.
“I was admitted at Premier Service Medical Investments in Chiredzi after experiencing cold flushes,” he added.
“At first, I was given some pills as I thought it was malaria. My condition, however, continued to deteriorate.
“After going through several tests, my doctor decided to do an HIV test and promised to give me the results the following day.
“Days later, there were no results. I started nagging the doctor, whom I now suspected did not know how to break the news to me.
“After continuous nagging, he summoned his courage and told me I was HIV positive. I was shocked. I felt angry and betrayed. Most of all, I felt my life was over.”
Days later, he was discharged from hospital and travelled back to Renco, a gold mining town south of Masvingo, where he was a history teacher.
Preparing for death
Relatives gathered and it was immediately decided that he be taken to the rural areas.
“It was decided that I travel whilst I was still alive as it was costly to transport a dead person,” he explained. “My wife was against it and that is how I stayed.
“Whenever church and community members came to pray for me, they would always cry due to the state that I was in.”
A month after being discharged from the hospital, he received two bottles of antiretroviral drugs from his doctor.
It was the last attempt to save his life.
Slowly, he began to show signs of life and eventually recovered.
In 2006, he joined UCE and became a member of the institution’s support group.
He immediately revealed his status.
“When I got better, I felt I owed it to those who had prayed for me to tell the truth about my status and tell them that I had not been bewitched,” he added.
“I also wanted to help people understand and accept the condition.”
After featuring in the ZTV advert, Mazodze became a popular figure.
Local and international HIV/AIDS institutions wanted to work with him on awareness programmes.
He travelled around Africa and Europe to talk about HIV/AIDS.
“Naturally, I am an orator,” he says with a chuckle.“I am gifted in speaking. Those close to me know that I am good at teaching and counselling. I guess that is my gift and when I was born, the universe knew that I would use it someday to save a few lives.”
Although his voice saved a few lives, as he says, he regrets not being there when his wife died in 2009. Mazodze’s wife succumbed to the disease while he was away attending a workshop.
He, however, has not lost hope.
He recently graduated with a master’s degree in Special Needs in Education from Great Zimbabwe University.
“I was the top student in my class when I graduated,” he adds with a grin.
“I now weigh over 80 kilogrammes, my CD4 count is over 1 000 and my HIV is undetectable. That does not mean I no longer have the virus, it means I am as healthy as anyone and can live my life to the fullest.
“I am still looking to many more years and raising my daughter, Natasha.”
He now spends a lot of time giving advice and counselling services to those in need.
Mazodze hopes to live to see an HIV-free generation.