LibLink…Lynne Featherstone: Hope and HIV in Malawi

Lynne Featherstone has been writing at the Huffington Post about her visit to Malawi. She talked about sitting with a father just after he found out he had HIV. She explores in the article how that man and others can be helped by intitiatives she is responsible for:

There was little hope in the eyes of the father I sat with shortly after he learnt he was living with HIV. Cradling his son in his arms, together they faced the agonising wait for the boy’s test results.

While 68,000 people die of AIDS-related illnesses here every year, HIV/AIDS no longer needs to be a death sentence. I am in Malawi to see how the Department for International Development‘s support is making an impact on the ground and reviewing how British development aid can be made even more effective.

Our funding means the father I met will become one of thousands of people who receive counselling and advice on living with HIV and the much-needed anti-retroviral treatmentswhich will help him lead a normal life.

The hospital also sees 5,000 pregnant women every year and for those who test positive, helps prevent transmission of the virus from mother to child. The work of this hospital and others like it has helped bring HIV prevalence rates down from 11.3% to 7.5% in the last 10 years.

There is a link between violence against women and girls and HIV:

Because the high rate of infection is closely linked to gender disparity and violence against women and girls, I also visited a pioneering policing unit to support victims of gender based violence.

More than 40% of Malawian women have experienced physical or sexual violence – while 60% of girls and 35% of boys have also experienced some form of abuse. For the first time, those in Dedza have a safe haven where they can report the crimes, receive counselling, mediation and advice.

And there’s a need to tackle the stigma of HIV:

One HIV positive lady I met told me she set up a support group because her best friends looked at her husband and her “like dead people” and children refused to play with her kids when they learned of her status.

She said the work of the support group has reduced the stigma attached to HIV and the despair of those living with it as people realise “there is still a life to live”.

That’s her message to the devastated father sitting in the Corridors of Hope.

You can read the whole article here.

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