Friday, January 13, 2012

ADRA Malawi, partners break barriers of discrimination in Lilongwe

By James Masauko and Elias Banda

Five hundred people have undergone HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) procedures in Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe after a series of meetings organized by ADRA Malawi aimed at breaking barriers of stigma and discrimination. The campaign was conducted ahead of the World AIDS Day that fell on December 1.

ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program earlier conducted the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in the area which revealed gruesome forms of discrimination for those living with HIV.

The PRA exposed facts that people living with HIV could not be allowed to share their kitchen utensils and food. HIV positive people were also excluded on list of people legible for government fertilizer subsidy program fear that they might die soon.

TA Tsabango addressing  people
condom demonstration during one of the meetings
In some cases, hand shaking with those suspected to be HIV positive was avoided as people feared they might contract the virus. The community notion on HIV positive people made it difficult for people to disclose their status for fear that they might not be easily accepted by the society.

The high level of discrimination in the area forced Lilongwe District Council to chose Traditional Authority Tsabango as venue for 2011 World AIDS Day commemoration.

ADRA Malawi conducted a series of meetings in 25 group village communities emphasizing on the need to end discrimination and stigma. ADRA worked in collaboration with the Lilongwe District AIDS coordinators and other partners to lobby for the establishment of 7 HCT centers where 500 people were voluntarily tested.

Already, the campaign is bearing fruits and apart from the increased number of people going for HCT in the area, the number of support groups for people living with HIV has risen from 1 to 5.  A local chief testified that membership in the support groups has increased to 30 members from 10 in Chimutu Thapasa village community. 

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