Zambia: Men make great care workers too

Zambia: Men make great care workers too

Date: November 30, 2011
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I started care work in 2003 when I joined the VK Community Care Organisation. VK Community Care Organisation was registered in 2002 and is located in Garden Compound, 7km from Lusaka centre, and has a population of 12 000 people.

Before I joined I was working with an organisation to empower women and raise their standard of living in Chibombo District.

In 2002, my first born son was diagnosed with HIV, and by that time he was staying with his grandmother. He phoned and told me he was not feeling well and I agreed that he should come to Lusaka. At the time he got sick he was staying in a village where there was no clinic.

He came to Lusaka and stayed with me. He complained of general body pains. I looked at him: he was very sick, and there was a need for him to be taken to the hospital. I took him to the nearest health centre, 7km from my house.

At the centre, the doctor examined him and referred him for Voluntary Counselling and testing (VCT). After undergoing VCT we discovered he was HIV-positive. He was counselled and then referred to an ART clinic where he was tested and examined for his CD4 count and told that he immediately had to start antiretroviral treatment. After one month he developed Kaposi’s sarcoma and his whole body swelled, especially the legs.

Wounds developed and he even started to smell. My wife could not bathe him because he was male so I took up the responsibility of taking care of my son; taking him to the toilet and bathing him. The most difficult thing was not having any other person or relative to help. I had no option but to get leave from work for one month.

Things did not change; my son’s sickness got worse, I had to take him to the University Teaching Hospital every week for injections to treat the sarcoma, which is cancer of the skin. This whole procedure took six months and I had to stop work to concentrate on caring for my son so my wife continued to work and had to provide for us all.

I thank my wife for taking up the responsibility of feeding us all, while I took up the responsibility of caring for our son, which was care work for both of us. I thank God for that assistance from my wife.

With this experience, I developed a very good relationship with the staff at the health centre and the hospital and I was referred to VK Community Care Organisation by the government clinic so I could learn how to provide better care and support to my son, and other patients at home.

It was a good suggestion and I was happy because I already thought the work was interesting. VK Community Care Organisation trained me for five days in basic home-based care and I was given a certificate. This inspired me and I got encouraged to join in caring for people living with HIV and AIDS.

In the community I started caring for, and providing support to, patients and I gave a lot of good examples of how a man can care for patients in their homes.

I also encouraged other men in the community to join in care work and 11 men were recruited into the organisation. I then stopped looking for employment and my heart went to caring for patients. I was motivated by training in counselling and testing and I appeared on state radio, talking about care and support and the involvement of men in care work.

I cannot stop care work now because I enjoy it so much. My son became better, and able to work. But after two years my son forgot he was sick, he wouldn’t listen to me and he went back to bad behaviours: drinking spirits and smoking. He even forgot to take his ARV’s.

My son could not adhere to treatment; he developed TB and died within four days of being diagnosed with it. However, I cannot stop caring for people living with HIV and AIDS because we need to protect other people who might want to stop treatment and behave the way my son did.

People living with HIV and AIDS need education and information so that they can live longer. It is not easy but we can do much more with the resources provided. Involvement of both men and women in care work must be supported by providing them with incentives so they can be motivated. In turn they will provide quality care to those living with HIV and AIDS.

This “I” Story is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service special series on care work.

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