Irish overseas aid helping African HIV patients

Money from Irish taxpayers enabling sufferers to live normal healthy lives

A grandmother with HIV has revealed how she is living a normal healthy life as a direct result of money from Irish taxpayers.

Zadia Marcelino was weak, in agony and painfully thin until her plight was spotted by volunteers with an African community action group.

Kurula, which is funded by Irish Aid through the Government's development fund, transformed the 42-year-old Mozambique woman who is now well enough to run a small farm and raise her five-year-old grandson.

She said life is so good after the intervention she now helps others tackle the killer virus.


“When I was sick I was very bad,” Ms Marcelino said as she sat outside her straw hut down a sandy dirt track and surrounded by coconut trees.

"I got really thin. I have been on the programme for three years and now I am doing extremely well," she told Minister of State Joe Costello, who is on a visit to the country. "I have a lot of land and I'm able to grow extra produce from my farm and I go to the market to sell it. So I'm in a really nice place right now."

More than 6,000 men, women and children have been brought back from facing a lonely and distressing death since 11 community-based support groups were formed in the Inhambane region in 2008. Some 400 are being supported this year.

Volunteers, who also usually have HIV, find sufferers in desperate need of care, medication and nutrition and teach them how to get access to health facilities, take treatment, grow foods like moringa and cook them.

Kevin Connors, of International Relief and Development which oversees the scheme, said the €500,000 funding a year from Irish Aid is making an impact and achieving results.

“Lives are being saved by what’s happening, the impact of this was phenomenal,” he said. “People were kicked out by family and husbands and our volunteers integrated them back in to their homes. Otherwise on the street they’d die.

“Without anti-retroviral treatment somebody would have died before the year was out, now they’ll live another 10 to 20 years.”

Mr Costello, Minister of State for Trade and Development, was at the end of a five-day trip to the country when he met Ms Marcelino to see first hand the work of Ireland 's aid programme.

Her three sons have emigrated from their community on the outskirts of Homoine to South Africa and Swaziland for work, while she cares for one of their children.

She was diagnosed with HIV after going to a local hospital with asthma many years ago, but never went for treatment until 2011 after volunteers got involved through word of mouth.

“A lady visited me regularly and she used to take me to hospital regularly and help me go through the drugs,” she added in her native Portuguese tongue through a translator. “I am now helping others. When I see somebody doing badly I get them to go to hospital.”

The overall prevalence rate for HIV in the region is 8.6 per cent. Among women, the rate is 10 per cent among women. Many men have left the area for work.

Over the five years the project has run the number of people getting life extending treatment has jumped from less than 4,000 to over 14,000.

Mr Costello paid tribute to volunteers, including Lidia Herculano who cared for Ms Marcelino, for their important work in helping so many people that could not be otherwise reached.

“She was someone very sick and now she’s in the pink of health,” he said after the visit. “She’s healthy, happy with life, and getting on with it and helping other people. It shows good quality treatment, support and food has made a difference to people.”