Mercy Nhamo

I am part of the Manicaland STI/HIV Prevention Project in Zimbabwe. I did the MSc in HCD at the LSE as part of my Wellcome Trust Masters Training Fellowship. My under-graduate degree was in Psychology and Sociology at the Africa University in Mutare, and after graduating, I worked for a number of years as researcher on various projects in Zimbabwe, ending up as a qualitative research supervisor at the Biomedical Research and Training Institute in Harare. It was in this post that I spent two years setting up and managing a qualitative research study on grassroots community responses to HIV/AIDS in Manicaland.

I was motivated to enrol for the HCD degree because I have a particular interest in developing more effective community-based HIV/AIDS programmes, and felt that it would be useful to develop my understanding of the way in which community relations can promote or damage health.

What l enjoyed most about the programme was interacting with  people from diverse backgrounds who had one goal of development work. The support given throughout by both lecturers and fellow students made my life comfortable. I strongly feel that l have gained great skills that will make me work as a researcher and contribute  particularly to health policies in southern Africa.

My HCD research project title was: "Exploring the role of grassroots social networks in the reduction of HIV/Aids stigma: a case study from rural Zimbabwe." This project involved action research, where I used the UNDPs 'community conversations technique' to work with informal social networks (such as women's groups and youth groups) to develop strategies for fighting stigma, both as individuals and within their groups. I am currently following this research up with a case study of the complex role of churches in addressing stigma in Zimbabwe.

Many Africans suffer because they are afraid to disclose their HIV status because of stigma. l hope that my research and passion will help the masses of people appreciate people living with HIV/AIDS - according them the respect and dignity that they deserve, creating positive re-representations of HIV/AIDS where people are able to disclose their status freely and without fear of being stigmatised