HIV and AIDS which was discovered in the 1980s is causing havoc in many developing
countries and Sub-Saharan continent is the hardest hit. Pratt (2008:8) highlights that “the
number of people living with the disease is concentrated in the industrially developing world,
mostly in those resource deprived countries least able to afford the care of HIV-infected
people”. Zimbabwe is one of the SADC countries with the highest statistics of HIV and AIDS.
Women account for the largest number of people infected by the pandemic and this could be
as a result of the social and cultural norms which oppress women and their position in society.
Antiretrovirals (ARV’s) are the life-long drugs given to HIV-infected people to slow the
progression of the disease. There are different types of ARV regimens. Zimbabwe introduced
the ART roll-out in 2004, however the ART users face multiple obstacles in accessing ARVs.
The study targets women because they are a vulnerable group in society, specifically in
Zimbabwe. Women have been subjected to stigma, discrimination, violence, humiliation,
degradation and psychological torture when they are identified as being HIV positive. Some
are neglected and deserted by their partners and families after disclosure, as a result many are
too scared to disclose their status to families. The country’s political and economic situation
has a major impact on the HIV positive women’s access to ARV treatment. This is compounded
with the social and cultural norms and values of the people. The focus of this study is on the challenges experienced by HIV positive women with regard
to accessing ARV treatment in Zimbabwe. This study strived to understand the challenges HIV
positive women encounter in adhering and accessing to ARV treatment. The goal was to
explore the challenges experienced by HIV positive women with regard to accessing ARV
treatment in Zimbabwe. The research question of the study was: What are the challenges
experienced by HIV positive women with regard to accessing ARV treatment in Zimbabwe?
This study used a qualitative approach with a collective case study research design. The
population for this study was the African women from Zimbabwe who were infected with HIV
and AIDS. Non-probability purposive sampling was utilised in this study to select the sample
of 10 women who were living with HIV and AIDS in Masvingo District, Zimbabwe and who
were accessing ART. Specific criteria for sampling was used to select clients of two NGO’s in
Masvingo district of Zimbabwe: Batanai HIV and AIDS Service Organisation and the
Reformed Church in Zimbabwe Community Based AIDS Program.
Semi-structured one-to-one interviews were used to collect data. The researcher sought
permission of the participants to voice record their interviews and the researcher transcribed
them personally. The data gathered was analysed and theme and sub-themes were generated
from the data. The research findings were presented thereafter by providing a profile of
research participants followed by thematic analysis of the themes and sub-themes from the
transcriptions. Literature control and verbatim quotes were used to support these themes and
sub-themes. The following are the themes from this study: Theme One- Information regarding
HIV and AIDS, Theme Two- Information on ARV treatment, Theme Three- Societal and HIV
positive women’s views on HIV and AIDS, Theme Four- Experiences of being an HIV positive
woman and Theme Five- Needs identified by HIV positive women.
The conclusions of this study reflect that HIV positive women experience some challenges in
adhering and accessing ARV treatment. Disclosure, stigma and discrimination, traditional and
faith healer’s diagnosis of HIV and AIDS, access to medication for Opportunistic Infections,
food shortage, distance to ARV sites, the availability and change of ARV regimens were
amongst some of the factors which made access to ARV treatment a challenge. Recommendations from this study can be used by HIV and AIDS stakeholders to understand
the challenges and experiences by HIV positive women better. The social workers can also use
the recommendations to find ways to make their services known to the communities and also
improve their intervention and support to these women.