On the Road to Save Lives: Q&A with Luwiza Makukula
Luwiza Makukula is an administration officer at Community Initiative for TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria (CITAM+), a local Zambian NGO registered in June 2005 to help disseminate information on TB, HIV/AIDs and AIDS co-infection through community sensitization by members of the organisation, most of whom have had TB and now cured and some of whom are living with HIV and AIDS and have suffered from TB at one time or another in their life and it is also an ACTION partner.
CITAM+’s vision is to see a Zambia free from TB and HIV/AIDS and to have free universal access to treatment and diagnostics. Its main mission is to advocate for national access to information, care and support to people infected and affected by TB and HIV and AIDS in Zambia, with a special concern for those with drug-resistant Tuberculosis (MDR/XDR).
Luwiza is also an Interim Secretary for the Coalition of Zambian Women Living with HIV/AIDS (COZWHA+), a membership-based organization that seeks to build capacities of women living with HIV and Aids in Zambia, to be able to respond to challenges in improving their welfare and livelihoods through better treatment, training, advocacy and economic empowerment which evision a Zambia free of discrimination of women living with HIV/AIDS from accessing education, employment, unlimited treatment therapy, business opportunities and also to take part in process of decision making in all spheres of their life.
Before joining CITAM+, Luwiza worked for Kara Counselling and Training Trust for six years, an organization focused on treatment, care and support of orphaned & vulnerable children and the co-epidemic of TB/HIV. Luwiza is a direct beneficiary of the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Luwiza completed a media and advocacy skills training course, sponsored by ACTION, in Kenya in 2012. She is in the midst of a 12-day tour of the U.S. to tell her powerful story to members of Congress, the media, and the community, describing what the Global Fund has meant for her.
How has the experience been for you so far in the US? How are people receiving you and your message of support for the Global Fund?
As I was preparing to come to U.S., I did not know the type of people I was going to meet and speak to about my personal experiences. As you are aware I was the second speaker at the RESULTS Pacific Northwest/Canada Regional Conference. After people listened to my story, they had a lot of questions as to how I managed as a mother and as a single parent. We had very interesting interactions, and they had interesting questions. I could see they wanted to even listen more; they made me feel at home and I enjoyed the interactions.
Is this your first chance to speak in Washington, D.C.? Yes! And it feels good!
When you began advocating, after coming through serious illness and coming to terms with your double diagnosis, what motivated you? What is your primary message?
Before my diagnosis, I had a normal life working as a personal secretary and being a mother of two girls. I had never thought about what it was like to go through the two diseases (TB and HIV). I am very happy that my daughters and my grandchildren are all HIV-negative. We speak very freely about the situation. I am not stigmatized by my family. I have all the support I need, but I have seen situations where families become disenfranchised from each other due to stigma. TB and HIV in particular have strong stigma attached to them. Some people even apply that hurtful stigma to themselves.
Having suffered from TB and being HIV-positive, plus what I went through during my sickness, gave me the passion to work for an organization which deals with all three of these diseases – HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in order to help the people in the communities. To date, TB remains the number one killer in people living with HIV.
I would love for the people in America to know how much Zambians appreciate the work of the Global Fund which has made it possible for the country to score positive successes in health. The Global Fund, which is a multilateral financing institution, has saved a lot of lives. As I speak to you here, I am one of those who have been saved by the Global Fund because in Zambia we are able to access free treatment.
What advice would you give to others who might want to jump into advocacy?
You need to have the passion and be able to speak for the voiceless. Listen to the community. Hear and see their reality. People who have the diseases understand best. It is one thing to read about it in a book. It’s another thing to listen to a person who has been through these diseases. We need strong voices to be heard as we advocate for change.
Any last thing you’d like to say before you move on down the road? Absolutely I do! The Global Fund has saved my life.