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Mental Health Crisis: Emelda shares her Journey

“I learned about my HIV status in 2005 when I was 32. I started getting ill over time and frequented the hospital. After so many visits, the doctor advised me to test for HIV. I agreed, and the results came back positive. I could not believe it, and I left the hospital disturbed and wondering how I got the virus”.

Fifty year old Judith Musonda is a single mother of one and a grandmother. She lives in Matero Compound, Lusaka District. Years before she tested positive, she was living a happy life changed drastically in just a few minutes upon seeing the two red lines on the HIV test she had undertaken.

She lived in denial, refusing to accept her HIV status and she would visit the hospital for years to get medication and only pack it home. Eventually she resorted to drinking alcohol and frequented bars.

 Emelda said over the years, the infection progressively weakened her immune system. She started losing weight and quickly developed different kinds of diseases.

For almost two decades of denial and suffering, she could not bear it anymore. Emelda visited the Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA) to seek counselling.

She started accessing mental health counselling services from September to December 2022, which she describes as having helped her build a new journey in her life.

“I am not ashamed of my diagnosis anymore, and I feel proud to be on this journey to use my experience to help others, especially those finding their journey challenging”.

Emelda says that her status does not bother her anymore and has been able to share the news with her family, friends, and community members.

She appreciates the help rendered by the CETA project and hopes to be a peer educator so that she can share her experiences with those that would need it.

“If I could advise someone on a similar journey, I would tell them that begin ART immediately and things would be better with time”.

Since 2020, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and support from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CETA has provided mental health care to 2805 recipients of care across 43 supported sites in Eastern, Southern, Lusaka and Western provinces, targeting males above 50 and young women and boys who include adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Emelda is one of these clients that has benefitted from CETA.