Like many countries in Africa, the rate of people living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi is extremely high. WHO officially recognises that 12% of the population in Malawi is HIV positive; however, our experience at the clinics in our area has revealed that number to be much higher – as high as 30%! Despite the huge proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS, there is still a social stigma attached to the disease in Malawi. Culturally, most people in Malawi are still hesitant to talk about HIV/AIDS, and many are too afraid to be tested. Many people feel they will be hated from their communities if they are discovered to be HIV positive, and thus continue to live with the disease without treatment, and continue to risk the infection of others.
Fortunately, many people in Nancholi have access to free ARVs (antiretroviral drugs), a combination of drugs which considerably prolong the life of a patient living with HIV/AIDS by many years, if not decades. ARVs also significantly reduce the chance of mother-to-child transmission, so mothers who are HIV-positive can give birth to healthy babies without passing the disease on to them. Despite these miracle results, the reality of ARV use in Africa is complicated. Following an ARV regime is complex and side effects have to be carefully monitored.
For many people in Nancholi, it is not enough that the ARVs themselves are free. Basic factors such as the cost of the bus fare to get to a clinic for treatment on a weekly basis, and regular access to enough food and water to be taken with the medication can prevent people from taking ARVs consistently or at all. Healthcare resources are also extremely limited, so physicians have much less at their disposal to monitor treatment than would be used or recommended elsewhere in Malawi. However, the greatest obstacle to ARV use in Malawi is still the low percentage of people who get tested early, with the majority only confirming that they have the disease once they have progressed to the final stages of AIDS. When people leave their diagnoses and treatment until the very end, their options are very limited and many people turn to traditional medicine, where treatment is often harmful, costly, and of course ineffective. NAYO recognises that 100 people die of HIV/AIDS in Nancholi each year; however, with so many people having never been tested for fear of community reaction, we believe that this number could in truth be much higher.
The great tragedy of HIV/AIDS is that it strikes down people in the prime of their lives, most often after they have become sexually active and have had children. One in eight children in Malawi are orphans, many due to HIV/AIDS. Contraction of HIV/AIDS is of course preventable, ARVs make a diagnosis manageable, but as long as a stigma persists and people refuse to be tested and to change their behaviour, HIV/AIDS will continue to be a significant problem in Malawi which destroys families, communities, and lives.
New ART Clinic
NAYO volunteers work with many patients who are living with HIV/AIDS and promote HIV/AIDS awareness at schools, clinics, and community level. NAYO has also been involved in community health campaigns to tackle the stigma associated with the disease, and encourage people in the community to get tested.
HOME BASED CARE (HBC)
NAYO has a Home Based Care programme that supports people living with HIV and other critical diseases in communities that are unable to support themselves.
The HBC is operating in sixteen villages in the Nancholi area covering both Urban and rural areas of Blantyre.
Activities of HBC
Through the programme NAYO is able to provide pain killers, medicine and food, as well as support and encouragement for those who are chronically ill and unable to access hospitals services.
Currently NAYO has 1,225 beneficiaries, but due to insufficient resources only 208 clients are currently being assisted. The number of people being helped is always increasing but resources are always needed to reach out to everyone. The women and children are the focus of a feeding programme whereby nutritious food is distributed to those individuals and families.
A recent development in the HIV/AIDS programme is the addition of a minibus. This enables NAYO to bring medical supplies and health professionals to remote villages to ensure that vulnerable people are getting the treatment they require without having to travel a long way to go to hospital. NAYO also takes people to hospital in the minibus should they need it. The minibus has proved invaluable to NAYO and the programme, and has changed the lives of many people.
NAYO’s future plans are to construct a clinic that will not only offer help to those living with HIV/AIDS but also other illnesses like cancer. There is the issue of having to employ doctors and nurses, and so NAYO have just hired one full time nurse and are looking for medical volunteers at the clinic. NAYO also wants to extend the nourishment programme to other malnourished and chronically ill patients in addition to the HIV positive women and children it already supports.
PIGGERY FARMING PROGRAMME
The piggery farming programme benefits those families that have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
The community contributes to the raising of pigs through provision of land, sand, bricks, water and human labour for the project. NAYO built the pig sty one year ago with financial assistance from Edinburgh Global Partnerships. To date we have distributed 19 pigs which have produced piglets. These are then passed on to other people who have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
The Pig farming programme is operating in sixteen villages in the Nancholi area covering both urban and rural areas of Blantyre.
Objective of the project
The main objective of this programme is to empower affected households both economically and socially.
In the future, NAYO plans to reach 95% of the targeted households and for the project to achieve full self-sustainability within the next three years.