Lisa, aged 16 from Usisya has bravely told us her story of how she began taking control of her sexual health
Despite the Malawi Government’s efforts to introduce reproductive health education in schools under the umbrella of ‘life skills education’, increasing awareness around sexual health generally remains a challenge among teenagers in Malawi.
“Lisa” (whose name has been changed for identity protection) first began using Temwa’s services when she was 14 years old. Temwa supports five health centres around Nkhata Bay North to provide routine HIV testing and counselling. We also instigate awareness-raising activities and events for communities to help improve education on the matter, including regular radio broadcasts.
Speaking from her experience Lisa said, “Most girls my age do not have real information about sexuality, therefore it’s hard for us to make informed decisions when it comes to sexual issues”.
“This is what contributes to many young girls and boys contracting STIs including HIV”, said Emmanuel Njikho, Programme Officer for Health.
He continues: “The engagements that Temwa has been having with sex workers as well as the young adolescent girls who are into sex working has helped to create a platform where young girls can practise healthy living to prevent contracting HIV. This contributes to reducing HIV spread as many people are now practising safe sex.”
HIV Prevalence in Malawi
In Malawi the HIV prevalence rate is at 8% (UNAIDS) – for comparison the UK’s HIV prevalence is 0.1% of the population (UKGov), highlighting global inequality regarding access to adequate healthcare. With such a high nationwide HIV rate, it is crucial that improvements are made to support people like Lisa’s access to treatment and raise awareness of sexual health.
“Before, we used to have unprotected sex with our boyfriends and sometimes other people who could offer us money. That is why among our group we have three girls who have children. Temwa has helped to open our eyes, as now we know many HIV and STI control and preventative methods, such as the use of condoms and getting PEP [Post Exposure Prophylaxis – a treatment for HIV]. Now we always protect ourselves when having sex. I am also able to engage my sexual partners and tell them to use condoms whenever we are having sex. I have learnt to speak out for myself and am able to make informed decisions about my sexual life.” She says.
Community Knowledge on HIV/AIDS
Temwa’s provider-initiated HIV testing and counselling project continues in Nkhata Bay North, allowing everyone visiting a clinic to take a HIV test. Extending this project into the community is key to tackling HIV in the region. Through information dissemination activities such as audio-visuals, drama performances and awareness events, the community is now gaining knowledge on HIV/AIDS and people are adhering to the HIV preventive control measures. If someone contracts the virus, we also provide contact tracing and offer counselling and support.
Lisa hopes that, in the future, she will be able to continue using this information and her newly found empowerment to prevent contracting HIV. “I want to finish my education and have a family in the future. I also want to thank Temwa for supporting adolescent engagement in HIV and our well-being. It is really helping us so much.”
Read more about our HIV project in our latest report here.
You can also read about this in our recent impact report.