Newlands Clinic patient addresses Medicus Mundi conference

When Maximina Jokonya found out she was HIV-positive at the age of thirteen, it was as if her world had fallen apart. Today, the Newlands Clinic patient helps young people who have been similarly affected. In November, she came to Switzerland at the invitation of Medicus Mundi to talk about her experiences.

Photo: Medicus Mundi Switzerland

Maximina told the conference participants they should kneel down. “When you’re talking with HIV-positive children and adolescents, look at things from their perspective,” was her message to the experts from organisations active in the healthcare sector. The 25-year-old Zimbabwean, who is herself HIV-positive, impressed the conference with her energy and openness in talking about her situation. As a teenager, she lost her father to Aids and then a few years later her mother. When she first came to Newlands Clinic in 2005 at the age of 13, she was so ill she could no longer walk.

Back into life, step by step

With the help of her nurse, the doctors and our partner organisation Africaid Zvandiri, she recovered, learned all she could about HIV, and went back to high school after a lengthy hiatus to complete her education. Today she works for Africaid Zvandiri and supports children and young people in the Mutare region who have suffered a similar fate. She explains to them what HIV means, encourages them to get tested, and uses her own story to strengthen their resolve. In addition to this, she also works to increase awareness in schools.

After the conference, Maximina Jokonya also had the opportunity to visit a secondary school class in Basel. “The students know a great deal about HIV. However, even today, not everyone is properly informed. Some think you can get infected through saliva, for example.” Maximina is in her element when she’s talking with young people. Given her own story, it is extremely important for her to do something for children and adolescents with HIV, and in particular for orphans. “Thanks to the support I have received, I’ve gone from being a beneficiary to a mentor.” Maximina Jokonya is keenly aware of the difference the right treatment and support can make: “If I hadn’t come to Newlands Clinic back then, I’d most likely not be alive now.”

Read more about the conference: Medicus Mundi Switzerland