Music, film and drama have been used as one of the powerful tools in sensitising masses to go for voluntary HIV testing and counselling in hard-to-reach areas of Nkhata Bay North.
Kondowe, a hilly mountainous area on the shores of Lake Malawi that is accessed by water transport only, was the centre of attraction last Wednesday.
At 1pm, music blared from the mounted speakers on the golden beach along the fresh waters of the lake.
In a few minutes, both the youth and adults littered the sandy ground, most of them preferring the shaded areas under mango trees as they yearned to know what the sound was all about.
But the music continued. It was an hour of music as files of the locals descended hills and mountains to completely fill up the place.
Then the director of ceremonies grabbed the mic from the DJ who had kept the audience entertained with his wide selection.
The director of ceremonies let the cat out. The gathering was not an ordinary entertainment event, although they had brought with them cinema, drama and music performances.
It was a meeting aimed at mobilising people to go for HIV testing and counselling. Temwa Organisation was the brains behind such an initiative as they set up temporary voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) points on the beach for the locals to know their status and live a healthy life.
Temwa organisation HIV testing service provider and senior project officer Fishani Msafiri said they came up with the initiative after noticing that the area is denied access to various health services due to mobility challenges.
Msafiri said the organisation uses films produced by Population Services International (PSI) Malawi and the National Aids Commission (NAC) to teach the masses on the importance of HIV testing, treatment and counselling.
He said the organisation also uses films produced by Purple Field Productions (PFP). Some of these films include Wanthu Ngati Ise (in English subtitles People Like Us), Mawa Langa (My Future) and Ndidzotheka (It’s possible).
Msafiri said the arts have proved to be a powerful tool in mobilising people in the rural setting to reach out to them with HIV messages.
“In such areas, people lack entertainment and whenever we go with drama, cinema and music they are forced to listen to us as they yearn for entertainment,” he said.
On that day, Mfasiri said 480 people volunteered to know their HIV status. He said those found positive are referred to hospitals for treatment.
He said the organisation is also targeting teenagers with the services and those found positive are incorporated into teenage support groups.
Kondowe Health Centre community midwife Lupakisko Mkweche said adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a challenge in the area such that the clinic has a 50 percent default rate.
“People here lack counselling. At least now things are changing with the coming in of Temwa. But in the past, people used to live in hiding due to stigma and discrimination which led to high default rate,” she said. n