In Nkhata Bay North, 16% of the population is HIV-positive – this means that nearly every household is affected by HIV or AIDS in some way.
The area is so remote that it’s extremely difficult for people to access healthcare facilities or receive health education. As a result, many people who are HIV-positive struggle to get the support and treatment they need. Additionally, there remains a stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, which leads to people avoiding being tested and sometimes not taking medicine.
Our health programme works to address the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS through two projects: Mobile Voluntary Counselling and Testing, and Straight Talking. We often run these in conjunction with other community engagement activities, such as interactive theatre and awareness campaigns run by our voluntary Peer Educators, who are located around the district.
Mobile Voluntary Counselling and Testing
Our Mobile Voluntary Counselling and Testing (MVCT) project helps to create behavioural change by raising awareness of the importance of regular testing, and empowering people to seek help and reduce the spread of HIV.
There are only four health centres in the area, so people have to walk for up to nine hours to get to their nearest services. Our mobile clinics take HIV testing to places which are beyond the reach of regular health services. This increases awareness of and information about HIV and AIDS, as well as enabling people to get tested and therefore treated.
The Straight Talking project combines two activities: AIDS Action Clubs, and HIV Support Groups. Together, these initiatives raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, and support those who are HIV-positive to live full and healthy lives.
AIDS Action Clubs
We’ve established an AIDS Action Club (AAC) in each of the 40 schools in Nkhata Bay North. These clubs raise awareness of and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, bringing together pupils to learn and share information through singing, poetry and interactive drama.
HIV Support Groups
We run eight HIV Support Groups for adults, and four Teen Clubs for HIV-positive young people aged between 15 and 25. These groups meet regularly and provide a space where people can come together to support each other and work to combat the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. Group facilitators provide advice on good nutrition and how to take medication correctly, as well as information on how to live positively with HIV.