The Heal Project in Zambia was started in 1999 by Jeannie Mulenga. Jeannie is HIV+TB.

This project began when she was in a desperate state of health after contracting HIV from her husband who, subsequently died, leaving her with three children aged 13, 12 and 9 and no house. She faced a lot of hardships. Her children where thrown out of school because she couldn’t afford to pay school fees. She faced discrimination in all aspects of her life. She was always isolated because she felt ashamed of what she was, she never used to talk to people or look into the mirror because of her enlarged lymphoid glands.

Whilst living on the streets, she met Dr. Helen Ayles through Kara Counselling in Lusaka. Dr Helen Ayles started treating her for TB and helped her find a solution to her problem of enlarged lymphoid glands.

Her quality of health improved and Dr Helen Ayles helped her to start a small business. She started renting a one roomed house where she was staying with her three children. She did well and her business was growing and she was able to support her children and at last managed to send them back to school.

There was a need for Jeannie to extend the support she had from Dr. Helen Ayles to other HIV+ people who are going through a similar situation. The idea was to start an income-generating group for HIV/AIDS people through a loans programme. Money was lent out to those who wanted to start a business. As the business progressed they would pay back the loan plus interest to the Heal Project. Dr. Helen Ayles provided over a million Kwacha (£200). With this she could run the project; unfortunately, in the beginning, money was not paid back. Instead people were using the same money to feed their families as the majority of them were very poor.

With more people becoming aware of the Heal Project, the group began to diversify in other ways to provide families with an income generating activity such as papier-mâché and carvings. Creations were sold at local markets, from where they found people with fantastic talents in Banana leaf artwork, Painting and Te and Dye. A deep freezer was purchased and the group started running a stall in the city market where cold drinks and fish were being sold. It went very well, and the profit was used for various things e.g. transport for members with each member also collecting a percentage depending on how good the sales were in that particular month.

The project also supports children including adolescents who have been orphaned by TB-HIV/AIDS, and those who have been made vulnerable because their parents are terminally ill with TB and other AIDS related illness. The parents are no longer able to provide for the family forcing the children to stop going to school. These children are now being provided with access to school and nutritional foods at a community centre in Ng’ombe Compound on the outskirts of Lusaka funded by the Heal Project.

Jeannie’s story

“I tested HIV positive in 1995 and then developed TB in 2002. I started with a dry cough. Then later on, I started coughing blood. I went to my doctor. I was found that I had TB. I had big lymphnode glands. Not painful, just grown big.

After the results, I was put on the treatment for eight months. After two months of taking my TB drugs, that is when I started taking anti-retroviral drugs. I began taking both drugs at the same time for my TB/HIV co-infection.

I was lucky that I got the treatment fast. Most of the people I knew who had TB died because they could not get the TB treatment fast. Others did not adhere to TB treatment and so they died also.

I started getting my HIV anti-retroviral drugs before they were available through the government. My doctor paid for it. Her name is Dr. Helen Ayles. I still get my HIV medicine from her. I don’t work so I couldn’t afford the medicine.

Most of my friends with HIV died because they were poor and could not afford the anti-retroviral drugs before the government facilitated the treatment to be free, but only in the major clinics”.

This information was reproduced from a website hosted by TBTV. http://www.tbtv.org/old/texts/voices/jeannie.mulenga.html