Good-bye 2017 hello 2018

It’s that time of the year where you sit down and reflect if what you set to archive beginning of year is what you ended up doing, well as for me what i set to do and what i have done is way beyond what i had ever imagined i would be able to archive this year. It is not by might, power or my own strength but the grace of God.

Am thankful for all that i had to go through to get to where i am today, the highs and lows, the ups and downs for without that life would be a straight smooth road to nowhere.

Many thanks to everyone who’s been with me through out the year, everyone who has stood by me through thick and thin, everyone who has believed in me am most grateful and want to wish you all a prosperous 2018!

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Where I’ve been

So I have been quiet for over a year now and you might have been wondering where I have disappeared to, well life has been happening and its been hard to keep up, in a good way that is.

Early this year I had to leave my job in Harare due to reasons that were beyond me, and as I was home it was not easy just watching the sun rise and set each and everyday which was when I decided to visit my family in Malawi which was when the adventures began.

 

I have joined this incredible team that helps the less privileged and other vulnerable groups as their Communications Officer and my job is to take pictures, videos and write articles. I now have this beautiful signature to all my pictures (like in the pictures inserted), a website drone4life.org and many many more wonderful things in store for me in the year ahead.

Hoping you all had a beautiful Christmas and are looking forward to the year ahead.

Zimbabweans grieve on social media via #howtheyrobbedus


Social media is a powerful tool for people to air their views. Since Monday, a hashtag has emerged on Twitter that makes for painful reading –  #HowTheyRobbedUs. It has unearthed hundreds of individual stories of suffering and humiliation from ordinary Zimbabweans who have suffered as a result of the political and economic decay in Zimbabwe. A Twitter analytics plugin suggests that 600 posts have been shared so far, reaching nearly 3 million Twitter users around the world.

The hashtag was started on 17 October by Phil Chard (@PhilChard) or Phylent Phlossy as he is known on Twitter. Chard says in the last few months he’s come across a lot of Zimbabweans in South Africa and seen updates from many more on social media who are very hurt and traumatised about how life has unfolded in Zimbabwe over the past 16 years.

Chard told Harare News that young adults have been forced to grow up in foreign lands. Others attended universities only to find out there are no jobs available. Families have been separated and have not seen each other in years and others still have been forced to find work in foreign lands where they are treated as second class citizens.

“There is this overriding feeling among young adults from Zimbabwe: that we are failures because we have not had the opportunity to start our lives or build homes or secure our futures. So a few days ago, I decided to start the hashtag where I spoke about my frustrations and how our leaders have failed to live up to their mandates and build the Zimbabwe that we were promised in 1980. I encouraged Zimbabweans to participate,” he said.

“Sadly the stories I am seeing are a reflection of the stories that sparked my idea. What is shocking is the amount of people who all share similar, heartbreaking and traumatic experiences. The amount of Zimbabweans on social media represents a small fraction of Zimbabwe’s population still at home and in the Diaspora. So seeing the large number of stories from such a small amount of people just shows how many people are hurting and suffering” he added.

Chard concludes, “All I wanted to do was start a dialogue on how Zimbabweans have been robbed of a fulfilling existence. This is by no means a political movement that is meant to vilify one party or another. Frankly ALL OF OUR LEADERS have failed Zimbabwe, not just a select few. The hashtag and the stories belong to the people. They will decide what happens next. For now I just feel it’s important that everyone shares their stories however they can. Whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or on blogs.” 

Image credit: Trickmillion

Dealing with HIV

 

After HIV was first discovered in the 1980s, there followed a lot of stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV and AIDS. But after four decades of campaigns to educate people about the virus and treatment, HIV is now largely viewed as being similar to any other chronic illness or condition.

Over time, the stigma of this sexually-transmitted virus is wearing away, and instead of feeling fearful to disclose that you have HIV, it has now become imperative that you know your status so that you can receive effective treatment. Nowadays, modern medical treatment means that people living with HIV can live long, healthy lives without infecting their partners if they regularly take their medication.

Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) slowly attacks the immune system which is the body’s natural defence against illness. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell called a T-helper cell (CD4 cell) and makes copies of itself inside them. If left untreated, HIV can cause Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). When HIV progresses to AIDS, it means that a person’s immune system is too weak to fight off infection, which can lead to death.

According to statistics from UNAIDS, incidences of HIV in Zimbabwe reduced by 50% from 2010 to 2015. Incidences of HIV also reduced among children from 30% in 2010 to less than 5% in 2015 and HIV/AIDS-related mortality reduced by 38%. However, there are certain areas where HIV rates are still high: border towns, mining areas, growth points and resettled farms. HIV prevalence is also slightly higher in high density urban areas than in rural areas.

HIV affects many people from all walks of life. 40 year old Shadreck Shanga of Mt. Hampden was recently diagnosed with the virus. “I lost my wife to AIDS last year in June, but every time I went to be tested, I was found to be HIV negative. When I fell seriously ill in April and went to the clinic, I was found to be negative once again. It was only when I changed hospitals and was tested yet again that I was told I had the virus.”

Dr Cleophas Chimbetete, who treats many HIV positive patients, says HIV is transmitted either through unprotected sex, sharing sharp objects such as razor blades and needles, and through parent-to-child transmission (PMTCT).

“In the past if someone was HIV positive, doctors would look at their immune system to see how far the virus had affected it and continue to check their immune system regularly before eventually deciding whether the patient now qualifies for Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) or not. But over time and with more research, it was found out that once you have the virus in your body it is already doing damage, so the earlier you begin treatment, the better for the individual. Early treatment means that the amount of virus in the body (viral load) comes down. Ultimately this means that you become healthier and at the same time you are less likely to transmit it to others when you have a low viral load,” he explained.

Pregnant women can transmit HIV to their children either while in the uterus, during delivery or while breastfeeding. This is why it is a requirement for all pregnant women to know their status. If you are pregnant and discover that you are HIV positive, you can immediately be put on ART to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to your unborn child.

“What determines whether you transmit HIV to the baby is the amount of virus you have in your body. If we are able to lower the viral load in a pregnant mother’s body, then the risk of her unborn child getting the virus is lowered. This also means she can have a normal pregnancy and does not need to have a c-section when she delivers and can also breastfeed for as long as she wants as her chances of transmitting the virus are less than two percent,” said Dr Chimbetete.

ART helps reduce the amount of virus in your body therefore reducing the chances of transmission. Shanga was put on ART soon after he found out he was HIV positive and is taking his medication regularly as prescribed by the doctor. Together with a healthy diet consisting of a lot of traditional foods, he is now able to live a normal, healthy life. Like high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma, HIV can be treated only if you know your status.

Everyone should know their HIV status. This is important to reduce the risk of you spreading the virus if you are HIV positive. In the event that you discover that you are HIV positive, consistent treatment with ART as soon as possible can lower your viral load and allow you to live a long, healthy normal life. If you are HIV negative, practice the ABCs: abstinence, being faithful to one partner, and constant condom use whenever you have sexual intercourse. You can get tested for HIV at any council clinic, hospital and all New Start centres.

 

Know your HIV status. To get tested, visit the New Start Centre at: 2nd floor New Africa House, 40 Kwame Nkrumah Avenue.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from the breast tissue, that is, the nipple, the breast itself, the armpit and other areas surrounding the breast. The most common type of breast cancer is ductile carcinoma, which begins in the cells of the ducts. Breast cancer can also begin in the cells of the lobules and in other tissues in the breast. Invasive breast cancer occurs when the cancer has spread from where it began into the ducts or lobules to surrounding tissue.

Statistics show that breast cancer is the second most common cancer in black women in Zimbabwe affecting about 12.5%. The most common being cervical cancer – affecting 32.1%. For Zimbabwean women of other races, breast cancer is also the second most common type of cancer, affecting about 21.3%, following non-melanoma cancer (a skin cancer) which affects 43.7%. Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, or a red scaly patch of skin.

Information, Research and Evaluation Officer at the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe, Lovemore Makurirofa, says breast cancer used to be common in women over 40 years old but now people are getting breast cancer as young as 20. “Anyone can get breast cancer – even men, though that is rare. But when men do get breast cancer, it is more likely to be very aggressive,” he added.

“The causes of breast cancer are unknown but there are high risk factors which may predispose women to develop breast cancer such as obesity, lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, first menstruation at an early age, having children late or not at all, and family history. In men, family history and having higher levels of estrogen than normal (Klinefelter’s syndrome) can contribute to the development of cancer,” Makurirofa explained.

There are ways of preventing breast cancer such as a diet low in animal fat and high in fibre, including fresh fruit and vegetables, avoiding oily, salty, high fat foods, dairy products and sugary foods, reducing your intake of fast foods as they contain lots of fat, exercising regularly, and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol.

Dealing with Asthma

Asthma is a respiratory condition marked by spasms (swelling) in the bronchi of the lungs which cause difficulty in breathing. Asthma is usually linked to an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity.

Asthma affects many people from all walks of life. Tiffany Funga, a University student studying marketing, has suffered from asthma since childhood. “I have had asthma since I was very young. My attacks are triggered by dust, pollen and cold weather.”

Doctor Christopher Pasi, a Specialist Physician at Harare Hospital, says, “Asthma is a reversible airways disease associated with wheezing, coughing, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath. It is usually allergy-based and symptoms can worsen when someone exercises, has had the flu, if they have inhaled certain allergens, or if there is a change in weather. Occasionally an excess in emotions – either when one gets too excited or too sad – if they are asthma-prone can cause an attack. Asthma is also genetic.”

Dr Pasi says if one has asthma their airways are always swollen and can worsen when something triggers their symptoms which make it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs. “Signs and symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing shortness of breath and chest tightness. Triggers for asthma include allergies and exposure to allergens such as pet dander, dust mite, pollen, mold and non-allergic triggers which include smoke, pollution, cold air or changes in weather,” he added.

Childhood asthma affects a lot of children who have allergies such as eczema, hay fever or food allergies and an asthma family history. Occupational asthma is caused when one inhales fumes, gases, dust or other harmful substances while at work which triggers asthmatic symptoms. One can even develop asthma symptoms only when exercising which is called exercise-induced bronchonstriction (EIB) or exercise induced asthma (EIA).

“Doctors diagnose asthma by taking a thorough medical test history and performing breathing tests to measure how well ones lungs work. One of the test is called spirometry where you take deep breathes and blow into a sensor to measure the amount of air your lungs can hold and the speed of the air you inhale or exhale. This test diagnoses asthma severity and measures how well treatment is working,” Dr Pasi explained. “So one should not be a prison of their asthma as it can be controlled after diagnoses,” he added.

Funga knows what triggers her asthma attacks and tries by all means to avoid inhaling chalk dust by sitting at the back in her class room, keeping warm when it is cold.

There is no cure for asthma but symptoms can be controlled by taking your medication as directed by your doctor and by avoiding triggers that may cause symptoms. Keep your house clean from dust, pet fur and mold, and keep yourself warm.

Dealing with Diabetes

 

 

Diabetes is a chronic condition associated with abnormally high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. There are several types of diabetes but the two most common are: Type One Diabetes, also referred to as Juvenile Diabetes or Early Onset Diabetes, and Type Two Diabetes, which develops with age.

Diabetes affects many people from all walks of life. One such affected is our Sales Manager at Harare News, Newton Musara, a husband and father of five. “I was diagnosed with diabetes last November. I was feeling a bit strange – I was constantly hungry and thirsty, my mouth was always dry, and I had blurred vision, so I went to the clinic. I was asked to take a test which confirmed I had diabetes and was put on medication,” he recalls.

Doctor John Chamunorwa Mangwiro, a diabetes specialist and also president of the Zimbabwe Diabetic Association, says, “Diabetes is a shortage of insulin (hormone required to push starch or cholesterol or carbohydrates into the muscles, liver or kidneys for the body to be able to use it) or the total absence of insulin. When there is a total absence of insulin, we call it Type One and this occurs in people younger than 30 who then have to be on insulin for the rest of their lives. Type Two Diabetes occurs in people above 30 because the insulin hormone may be deficient or low. In Type Two Diabetes, the insulin is being produced but is not being used in the body properly,” he explained.

Dr Mangwiro says the signs and symptoms of diabetes include increased urination, feeling very thirsty and having a dry mouth, hunger, weight gain or loss, feeling tired, wounds that will not heal, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Mangwiro added that it is also possible to develop high blood pressure, have a stroke, or experience kidney failure. “Diabetes is an immune-suppressive disease. It can attack any organ in the body,” he added.

Doctors use an A1C test to test for diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above 6.5%, it means you are diabetic. If it is between 5.7% and 5.99%, it means you are prediabetic. If the test shows your blood sugar level is less than 5.7%, this means that it is normal.

“If a person is diagnosed with Type One Diabetes, they have to take insulin for the rest of their lives, on top of a eating a balanced diet. Type Two can be controlled by medication and or eating healthy foods, eating fewer carbohydrates. For example, you should eat a portion of sadza equal to the size of a fist, eat a lot of vegetables, and no more than two pieces of meat the size of a match box. Eating at the right time (more in the morning and less in the evening) to reduce weight gain is also important,” said Dr Mangwiro.

Newton’s blood sugar levels are back to normal since he completely changed his lifestyle. He now makes sure he exercises, eats healthy, and takes medication as prescribed. Exercising, eating a balanced diet with a lot of vegetables and traditional foods, and avoiding refined foods as much as possible can make the difference in preventing diabetes.

Finally, there is a need to put to bed the popular myth that consuming sugar causes diabetes. According to Dr Mangwiro, our main sugars come from sadza, potatoes, milk and many carbohydrate rich foods. These make people gain weight leading to obesity, one cause of diabetes. So it is not true that just eating sugar causes diabetes, though sugar should still be avoided.

 

If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms for diabetes, please consult your doctor immediately for medical attention.

Carron Tambala is the editorial assistant at Harare News. Send feedback or suggest a health issue for Carron to investigate by emailing carron@hararenews.co.zw.