I'm the supervisor of a clinic that treats HIV/AIDS patients in rural Malawi. The clinic is operated by Partners In Health's sister organization, Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU).
Last year, I saw a close friend of mine, a teacher, and I could tell something was wrong. I decided to go to his home and give him information about how to get tested and treated for HIV. He did not want to listen. He thought he had been bewitched and had a bad spell put on him. So I told him my story.
Two years ago, I became sick. Malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, a bloody cough. I lost weight and became very thin. My father encouraged me to go to the hospital in Neno, the rural district where I was born. APZU happens to operate this hospital. There, I tested positive for HIV. When I learned I had the disease, I became very depressed. All that came in my mind is that HIV kills people, I have HIV, I am going to die.
But then, the doctor started me on antiretroviral therapy (ART). It was amazing how I became healthy and strong in less than two months!
In Malawi, about 15 percent of the population is HIV positive. Over 125,000 people live in the Neno district, and it is believed that as much as half of the population is infected with HIV. Like my teacher friend, many people in Neno know about HIV but they don’t believe that they could ever have it. Many are scared of getting tested. I decided to do something! I started telling people right in my home village that HIV affects many people, urging them to get tested, telling them that it can be treated. I think because many people in Neno saw my change from so sick to so strong, they began to believe that it is possible to live with HIV if they seek care.
Today, APZU treats about 2,300 people with ART. But there is still a ton of work to be done. We are embarking on a campaign to increase awareness of HIV, the importance of testing, and the success of ART. We will travel from village to village.
But the HIV/AIDS pandemic affects so many more people in the world. We need to increase HIV awareness not only in my village, not only in Malawi, but across the globe. You can help us spread the word. If you use Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, or Microsoft Outlook 2007, adding a simple signature line to your outgoing emails using replyforall will attach information about the importance of stopping global AIDS to the bottom of each email you send. In addition, replyforall will make a donation to PIH’s work each time an email is sent with their signature line.
Please follow the steps to customize the signature line, select the icon for "Stop Global AIDS," and make sure that "Partners In Health" is specified as the organization you wish to promote. Please also consider asking your friends to sign up as well.
For the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the question is not how an individual got the disease, but rather, what are we doing about it? We have to start now. Signing up at replyforall is a simple first step.
ART Clinic Supervisor, APZU, Malawi
P.S. My teacher friend finally got tested for HIV. I went with him. The results were not good. We shared a drink, and I reminded him of my story to give him hope. He started ART in January, and is now healthy and doing just fine!