Newton Gausi and Mwandida Kondowe are both HIV counsellors at the Bula Health Centre.
Nkhata Bay North has one of the highest HIV prevalance rates in the world. Here Newton and Mwandida talk to Temwa Malawi on why they started working with Temwa at Bula Health Centre…
Many people in remote northern Malawi, where Temwa operates, live in very hard to reach areas. As a result significant amounts of the population often struggle to visit the health centre, and likewise medical staff are highly challenged trying to reach patients. For instance, some of the health centre’s catchment population live as far as 30-45 kilometres away, with little to no transport available.
Health centre staff sought Temwa’s support to reach these remote communities, who require HIV testing and other crucial services. Before Temwa’s involvement, the centre could only provide HIV services to an average of 40 people a month in the surrounding area. With Temwa’s support, the staff can travel to reach an average of 150 people a month.
Previously, only HIV counsellors were able to provide testing services but, now that all health centre staff have been trained in the PITC (Provider Initiated HIV Testing and Counselling) approach, they are able to initiate testing through outreach clinics. This massively increases capacity for testing and counselling at the centre and beyond, each month. Staff can also provide services including STI screening, cervical cancer screening, family planning, and malaria testing.
Newton and Mwandida say that they saw the benefit of Temwa’s training almost immediately:
“We noticed a significant change right as the project started. The number of tests started rising that same month. Most people are now getting HIV tests unlike in the past. It is even more interesting to note that most of the people getting tested are the youth who are sexually active.”
Newton and Mwandida say that they would like to do even more outreach clinics in remote areas, to reach as many people as possible. This would help them to follow up on those who have defaulted on their antiretroviral treatment, for whatever reason. Health centre staff are also beginning index testing, which will help identify contacts of any people with a HIV positive status.
Malawi has one of the highest prevalance rates in the world with 9% of the population having tested positive for HIV. This does mean that HIV prevalance is even higher in northern Malawi, where we work. However, it highlights the need for Temwa to continue its vital work supporting communities to combat this awful disease. Since we began our HIV work, HIV prevalence has reduced from 16% to 13% in Nkhata Bay North, showing that Temwa’s projects are making a difference.