When Angie Chinguwo (Team Lead with HIV North Society) was a young girl growing up in Zimbabwe, she heard about a centre in her community where they were helping people who had gone from being HIV positive to full blown AIDS, and were in the last stages of their lives. In high school at the time, she had an overwhelming sense that she wanted to volunteer there, especially helping children that she had heard were there, born with the disease. The image of one 10 year old boy sticks with her, even many years later, and reminds her about why she is so passionate about her work with HIV North Society.
“Seeing that boy lying on the bed – hopeless and helpless; I knew I had to do something about this,” she recalled on the IMPACT radio show back in December 2016. “I have to educate people.”
Angie was eventually invited to participate in the Global Young Leaders Conference in the United States, representing Zimbabwe, an incredible opportunity for a young lady with a desire to be a force for change in the world. With the financial help of an uncle, she attended the conference, following which she crossed the border into Canada where she attended university, where she took her Bachelor’s in Communication. She has not returned to Zimbabwe since.
Her husband had a job opportunity in Fort McMurray, which is where she discovered the opportunity to work with the HIV North Society and fulfill her lifelong dream.
“In my mind, I knew that I would one day make a difference in someone’s life,” she recalled. “The image of the boy lying on the bed never left me.”
“Education is powerful; knowledge is powerful.” – Angie Chinguwo
There was a time when HIV and AIDS were in the news headlines on an almost daily basis. However, a lot has changed since it first came to the forefront in the 1980s and 90s. Education, prevention and medication have made the disease much less visible than it was decades ago. While the HIV can be controlled with medication, it first has to be diagnosed.
“You have to get tested to know your status,” said Angie. “The thing to remember is that you can live with the disease for 10 years with no signs showing that you’re HIV-positive.”
Over 75,000 Canadians are HIV-positive, over 85 million globally. The team at HIV North Society are passionate about educating the public about the risks, the benefits of being tested, and reducing the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.
“Everyone has a different story,” she said. “Before we judge people, let’s try to understand their story. The other thing to remember is that HIV doesn’t just affect the infected, it affects their family members.”
Angie recently returned to work after a maternity leave – she and her husband have three children. Despite the trials of 2016, including evacuating Fort McMurray during the wildfires, Angie considers this community to be home.
“My life has improved, and my family’s life has improved since coming here,” she said. “We love it.”
You can listen to the full IMPACT interview with Angie Chinguwo by clicking here. HIV North Society is a United Way Member Agency.
HIV North Society (left to right): Angie Chinguwo, Linda Mason, Zanini Phakathi, and Danielle Hapta
IMPACT is a weekly radio program hosted by the United Way’s Russell Thomas and heard on KAOS 91.1. It is a collaboration between the United Way, FuseSocial and KAOS 91.1.