PEOPLE living with HIV and Aids (PLHIV) say the Inquiry-Based Stress Reduction (IBSR) programme that was initiated by Zimbabwe National Network of People living with HIV (ZNNP+) in partnership with Connect is a critical tool in the fight against self-stigma which is rife.
During a conference that was held in Harare recently, it was noted that stigma is still common in society and often times fanned by PLHIV.
IBSR is a scientific model used to identify and question thoughts that cause fear and suffering in a human being.
Experts say it is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that assists people in understanding what’s hurting them, and to address the cause of their problems with clarity.
Anastancia Gada, one of the pioneers of IBSR who is openly living with HIV testified that the programme has helped her in life.
“I was someone full of anger and could easily be stressed in my daily life.
“When my father passed on, I thought that was the end of my world. I lost all hope and defaulted on my medication, lost weight and was on the verge of losing my life.
“But after going through IBSR, I gradually became a changed person in various spheres of life.
“IBSR has given me hope, joy, peace and knowledge on how to overcome stressful thoughts,” said Gada.
Another participant, Moses Bingura said he has learnt a lot about self-stigma from the programme.
“I have personally walked the self-stigma route because I have experienced self-stigma in my life.
“I have lived with HIV for 20 years now, filled with fear, blame, self-hate and feelings of guilt but all that has changed.
“I have freed myself from stress and have become optimistic towards life”.
ZNNP+ executive director Dagobert Mureiwa said Zimbabwe Stigma Index findings on self-stigma were in sync with similar studies in other 52 countries across the globe, all confirming that PLHIV stigmatise themselves more than those living negatively do — up to three times more.
“Despite this, none of the research studies recommended practical ways of addressing self-stigma with our case being the first of its kind.
“Self-stigma negatively impacts on a person’s ability to live positively with HIV, limits meaningful self agency and affects the quality of life, adherence to treatment and access to health services.”
Mureiwa added that the recognition of the prevalence of self-stigma and lack of a dedicated strategy to address it led ZNNP+ with support from Troicare — an Irish development agency to carry out an IBSR pilot study so as to find a way to address self-stigma among PLHIV.
“To date, ZNNP+ is excited that the IBSR initiative has received a widespread recognition and acceptance, with the UNAids documenting it as one of the best community initiatives in the fight against HIV” Mureiwa said.
Director of the Deaf Zimbabwe Trust Babra Nyangairi said the IBSR is not only good for PLHIV but for all other people in the society as it enables people to desist from negative self-judgment, which results in fear, self-blame and negative feelings for oneself.
“For people living with disability, IBSR will enable them to address self-stigma and be able to take part in any activity like any other person without feeling inferior.”