By Christine Chiromo
Johana Farayi Kasirori-Mashove, has been living with HIV/AIDS for over 30 years and is now an inspiration to many showing that being positive is not a death sentence.
Kasirori a member of the Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition-Zimbabwe and is vice secretary for Harare Province, was born at St Theresa Hospital in Chirumhanzu, Zimbabwe on 23 March 1967.
She tested HIV positive in 1989 after a short blissful marriage and was widowed at the age of 22years old whilst a student at Belvedere Teachers College.
“I was a mother, wife to an ailing husband, student teacher, all at the same time. Such was my first year at college, a bag of real life challenges. My routine was from classroom to hospital, assignments in the evening, then home to Kwekwe for the weekend to see my baby. Life was hectic. Concentration was difficult. My husband passed on at the end of my first year in college leaving me with a sweet little girl, my purpose to carry on.
“I knew l was HIV positive and thoughts of me dying played in my mind. It was stressful. The doctor who tested me had very little information on HIV. He told me that there was no medication for HIV, he could not do much”
Kasirori recounts how years went by living with the virus, realizing there was light at the end of the tunnel, graduated with flying colors and got a teaching post in Glen Norah.
“l didn’t die. I started reading anything l could get my hands on about HIV/AIDS. I watched movies from across the film industry divide, these depressed me, they showed wasted away people, the stories were gloom and doom and AIDS was a death sentence. It also showed the infected in a bad way that they were of loose morals and they had to carry their cross.
“Being a teacher, my classroom and staffroom became my platforms for sharing my story. It was my time to dispel myths, I drummed the prevention story, and prevention was the only way out. I lost friends and gained some friends as well.”
In 2004, kasirori developed TB and after 8 grueling months of TB treatment, she was initiated on anti-retroviral treatment (ARVs) and also started a degree with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) where she graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts English and Communication Studies Honours degree.
By then, the country was running campaigns to educate the nation and kasirori was chosen to participate in the second anti stigma campaign alongside Davies Mazodze and Pastor Maxwell Kapachawo.
“I got recognition and was awarded the 8th Auxillia Chimusoro Award for Communication. I was on billboards in the country, I was fighting stigma. I was on radio and television, it was a war to fight HIV, and prevention was the answer.
“My disclosure did not go down well with parents of my students. They did not like their children being taught by an HIV positive teacher.”
She said the head of Glen Norah 2 High School stood his ground. He told parents that it was unlawful and inhumane to force her to retire.
It was her right to be employed as a teacher.
“I continue to work as a support pillar for students and my community.
I am fighting stigma, no one should be discriminated against because of their HIV status. My daughter is my pride and inspiration. l also derive strength from my family. My daughter is now married with two awesome children. I always prayed to live and see my grandchildren.”
HIV/AIDS does not stop you from achieving your dreams as long as you take ARVs religiously and live positively. I will live to see my grandchildren graduate. To all battling acceptance, the future is bright, talk to someone, she added