In the second half of the 1990s, when HIV/AIDS was still an enigma within the Mozambican community, Hambene Cumbane associated himself to the community activism with the intention of raising awareness of the young people on the prevention and treatment of this disease.
At the time, he was an inexperienced teenager in search of a positive occupation.
“I was very young and I didn’t know that activism could be present in my entire life”, he says, adding that “at that time, many people was getting infected with HIV. It was very important to mobilize people to prevent themselves.”
According to the Ministry of Health’s National HIV/AIDS Survey, Mozambique has a daily average of 364 new HIV/SISA infections, joining the most affected countries after South Africa, Nigeria and Russia.
Before joining himself to Kuyakana Association, Cumbane – as a health activist – was involved in several civil society organizations, namely: Health Collaboration Center (CCS), Mozambican Public Health Association (AMOZAPO) and Mavalane Association against Drugs.
“I joined to activism for the love of the sweater. I have always been in community campaigns, talking about the danger of drugs and the need to prevent sexually transmitted diseases”, says the activist.
Currently 39 years old – at a time when Mozambique is the fourth country in the world with the highest number of new HIV/AIDS infections – Hambene Cumbane confesses to joining activism after testing positive.
After discovering the existence of this virus in his blood, he decided to firmly follow the treatment and raise awareness of other HIV-positive people who are not dedicated to antiretroviral treatment.
“There are many HIV-positive people who do not want to follow the treatment. So after discovering that I am HIV-positive, I decided to give my strength to people who also have HIV” says the activist, stressing that “there are many young people who are hiding. Young people who have HIV. I am not ashamed to say that I am HIV-positive; I want other people to know that they can live normally with this disease.”
It was through the fight against HIV/AIDS that Hambene Cumbane – a tall and physically robust man – joined Kuyakana, where he has been carrying out awareness-raising, treatment and prevention campaigns of this chronic disease.
“I work in sanitary units. We have been carrying out campaigns in different health centers so that people do not give up on antiretroviral treatment”, arguments the activist.
Cumbane, using his powerful voice, strongly criticizes the actions of health workers, saying they have been mistreating patients, cornering them in long waiting lines and demanding illegal payments.
“Users give up treatment because of the lack of confidentiality and other reasons, such as: slowness in the treatment and lack of food. Chronic malnutrition is alarming. Patients have been asking for basic basket. For some patients, the medication is heavy. Many young people do not medicate when they are hungry and from there comes the death”, he stresses.
In addition to the behavior of health professionals, Cumbane conceives the hospital infrastructures with disapproval, uttering that it makes no sense that some sanitary units do not have bathrooms in good condition, or taps prepared for water supply.
“The bathrooms are not in good condition, and there is no faucets. The lack of hygiene is very regrettable, there is no garbage cans… used cotton can be found anyway”, the source says, warning that “this scenario must be changed, it must not continue like this”
For Cumbane, the weak disclosure of information, the lack of courtesy of professionals and the continuous inhuman treatment are also the main problems that sicken the National Health System (NHS).
“There is lack of information in hospitals. Users are not well informed about their rights and duties. Health units are not clear in the dissemination of information on the prevention of certain diseases. There is also lack of courtesy, the treatment is not humanized and there is a lot of breach of confidentiality… professionals break confidentiality and this contributes for the abandonment of antiretroviral treatment”, he reveals.
In order to minimize the problems that sicken the health sector, Cumbane advocates the submission of a petition to higher institutions responsible for NHS, so that the behavior of the health professionals can be discussed.
Every day, Hambene leaves home at five o’clock in the morning to present himself at the health center at seven o’clock, when the activities get started.
Cumbane is married man and he is a father of a sixteen-year-old boy. He is a battler who cultivates his days for the well-being of the family. With technical course of electricity – when he is not exercising activism – Cumbane dedicates himself to various part-time jobs, such as electricity, civil construction and water channeling.
“When the projects are over, I do my odd jobs as an electricity technician, as well as a refrigeration and air-conditioning technician. I’m also a plumber. Since transportation and communication subsidies are not enough for me to be every day in the health units, I save my coins for daily expenditures. I also use it to take care of my family responsibilities”, reveals the activist.
In conclusion, Cumbane states that “as an activist, I would like to see more Mozambicans joining the treatment. We have to stop mistreating our own lives. As HIV-positive people, we must avoid excessive alcohol consumption and we should avoid losing nights with no plausible reasons. And life goes on.”
In Mozambique, there are about two million people living with HIV/AIDS, and about half do not have access to treatment.