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A service for healthcare industry professionals · Monday, February 26, 2024 · 691,288,035 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Mental Health: Facing Challenges and Celebrating Successes

Meet 58-year-old Richard Zulu, a father of three and living with his wife and children in Matero, a township in Lusaka, Zambia. He is a businessman who specialises in seasonal products.

Richard experienced a mental breakdown in 2019 after he was diagnosed with HIV. “Being diagnosed with a serious illness like HIV can have a big emotional impact. I suffered from depression and anxiety, and it was difficult to adjust to the news of the diagnosis. I also feared what people might say, and the thought of visiting the ART clinic was daunting,” he said.

Richard narrates how he  was initiated on antiretroviral treatment, but barely after six months of taking the medication, he put himself on holiday. 

“I avoided thinking about my HIV status and lived as if everything was normal. But all was in vain, as I felt depressed and worthless,” he stated.

He further outlined that in 2020, he started having unexpected weight loss and a deterioration in health, which prompted him to visit Matero General Hospital. The same year, Richard received a call from Marvis Tembo, who introduced herself as a counsellor from the Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA), who wanted to find out why Richard was no longer getting his medication.

‘I did not understand why someone would be so interested in my wellbeing. I was very defensive, and I told her that she had no right to intervene in my health and that she should never call me again,” he said.

Richard narrated that after a few days, he received another call, and when he answered, it was the same voice which had called him earlier. He said counsellor Marvis reintroduced herself again and asked him for a few moments, which he accepted after 30 minutes of negotiating.

“She knew how to get to me. I told her I would visit her when I felt comfortable, and after sleeping over it, I finally gathered my strength and met her at Matero General Hospital, where I started accessing mental health support to manage my depression,” he said.

He said in 2020, he was back on ART treatment with little adherence.” I used to delay taking medication, instead of taking it at the exact time I had planned, I would delay and sometimes not take it at all,” he stated.

Richard said that the situation resulted in him having a high viral load, and his health started deteriorating. 

” I had a low mood and lost interest in activities, despite fearing for my life, I still ignored the reality of the situation,” he narrated.

He further said that the CETA counsellor saw his viral load and was concerned and continued encouraging him on the importance of acceptance in HIV treatment.

Richard said in 2022, he started accessing counselling services continuously with CETA and on 2 June 2023, he completed his sessions and fully accepted his situation.

He further outlined that the same year, he disclosed his status to his wife, who too, was found positive. The couple now visits the hospital together and adhere to their medication.

Richard appreciates the mentor health counselling services provided by CETA, stating that it has improved his life.

“The support I got from CETA enabled me to adhere to HIV treatment and embrace a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

CIDRZ’s CETA project has provided mental health care to 1751 recipients of care across the 43 supported sites in Eastern, Southern, Lusaka and Western provinces, targeting males above 50 and young women and boys aged 20 – 24 years of age, who include adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, clients late for pharmacy pickups and have high viral load.

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