With the country now approaching the third phase of Covid-19 vaccination, People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Zimbabwe are blaming government for not disseminating enough and clear information to them concerning the programme.
Network of Positive Women national coordinator Evelyn Chamisa said lack of clear information on the vaccination programme affected the participation of their members.
“People are complaining about lack of information. There has not been much information on whether we should take the vaccine or not. We don’t know if there are side effects to the vaccines.
“The government should provide information for people living with HIV because there are fears that they may develop some unknown life-long side effects because they do not know if their medication is compatible with the vaccine.
“However I am encouraging those who are willing to take the vaccine to be vaccinated. I also encourage them to seek advice from health specialists before they get vaccinated,” said Chamisa.
One person who lives with HIV confided to TellZim News that she was ready to be vaccinated but was fearful she could experience some side-effects as she did when her medication was changed from Antiretroviral (ARV) Stalanev 40 to ARV Tenolum.
“I experienced severe side effects and was admitted in hospital for a whole month. I experienced severe diarrhea for nine months and I lost almost 25kg of body weight. I escaped death with a whisker, I don’t know what the Covid-19 vaccine will do to me and I am now hesitant to take it,” she said.
Former Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) national chairman Sebastian Chinhaire said information about Covid-19 vaccination with regards to PLHIV was not clear.
“The main issue is the lack of information on the after effects of Covid-19 vaccines on People Living with HIV who are on ART.
“Not enough information has been disseminated concerning those on ART. This has resulted in misconceptions and speculations. Much of the information on PLHIV is social media-based and this has worsened the misconceptions and skepticism. The Ministry of Health has not done much in terms of information dissemination on Covid-19 vaccination and people with chronic diseases.
“People Living with HIV have experienced life long after effects because of ARVs, with some now suffering neuropathy (unequal distribution of body fat). So you cannot blame some of us who are reluctant to get the jab, we need enough information. We fear that these life-long side effects could be worsened if we get vaccinated. The government should assure us if we are to be vaccinated,” said Chinhaire.
David Maziva, who described himself as a health promotion officer in Chiredzi, said the vaccine seems to be safe even to those on ART.
“At the moment vaccines seem to be safe even to people living with HIV. A person should continue taking ARVs even after taking the vaccine. HIV patients are among people who are at high risk of disease progression when they contract the Covid-19 virus.
“However, those on some treatment regimes such as chemotherapy and those people with unstable health conditions like high Blood Pressure (BP) should not be vaccinated,” he said.
The government aims to vaccinate 10 million people in its free and voluntary Covid-19 vaccination programme which is now on the second phase.
The first phase consisted of the frontline workers who include those in the health sector, the security sector, the media fraternity among others.