Born 62 years ago, Enock Watisoni of Juma1 Village, T/A Bvumbwe in Thyolo swore he would never go for HIV testing.
â€œI did not know the importance of knowing oneâ€™s status as life to me was normal,â€ says Watison, who has 10 children and over 20 grandchildren.
It was not until 2006 when he changed his mind after his wife, Esther aged 52, told him the significance of knowing someoneâ€™s status.
â€œMy husband was a very stubborn man when it comes to issues of HIV and Aids testing. I was even afraid to discuss it with him,â€ says Esther.
But a visit from Total Control of the Epidemic (TCE) to the Watison home on a door-to-door HIV campaign changed all that.
â€œThey came when my husband was away. I agreed to have my blood tested and it came out positive,â€ says Esther.
She says while she was relieved to know her status, she was worried about how she would tell her husband about it and convince him to go for a test as well,â€ she says.
It took almost two weeks for her to inform her husband of her status.
â€œI also approached the TCE people to have a discussion with my husband on the importance of knowing oneâ€™s status,â€ she says.
After a month, Watison accepted to get tested and was also found HIV positive.
Soon, the couple started suffering from different opportunistic diseases that they could no longer do their farming well.
However, a support group from the area known as Mwalawolemba came to their rescue.
â€œThis support group taught us the significance of eating a balanced diet. At first, we thought we could not improve on the foods we grow here,â€ Esther says.
The couple started doing what they were taught and their immunity changed drastically.
TCE is an initiative by the Development Aid from People to People (Dapp) and it uses door-to-door campaign against HIV and Aids. As a result, the uptake of information is very high.
Through the door-to-door campaign, a person undergoing HIV testing is told how to prevent risking infection to themselves and others.
â€œSince the project started in 2010 in the district, people around this area are now willing to test and come out in the open to declare their status,â€ says Dapp-TCE programme coordinator Florence Longwe.
â€œBefore the introduction of this programme, people were afraid to go to the hospital to have their blood tested because they thought that hospital officials would not keep secret. However, with this programme, people are willing to do go for testing,â€ says Longwe.
TCE also encourages HIV patients who are on treatment to have at least two people who are close to them to remind them to take their drugs in case they forget.
Longwe says they encourage HIV patients to establish good relations with their relatives or friends so that they can be free to tell them their status.
A similar TCE project is underway in Mpemba and Madziabango areas, Traditional Authority Somba in Blantyre. Close to 190 men and women formed Nditha Support Group to provide civic education on HIV-related issues in the area.
Most members of Nditha in Group Village Head Chantimbanya are living positively since 2007, when the project was launched.
â€œBefore we joined the support group, I used to get sick every week. When I decided to go for VCT, I was found positive, but now I am strong because I know how to care for myself. Diseases are history to me,â€ says Rodrick Nazombe, chairperson of the group.
He adds that the increase in members since 2007 from 17 to the current 194 members signifies success of the group. He says it was difficult to convince people to go for VCT because most of them did not want to disclose their status.
â€œThe benefits are that if you join the group, you have access to ARVs within reach, you get training in the infection and how to deal with stigma and discrimination. Those who neglect VCT are the ones who die,â€ Nazombe claims.
Health authorities who have been to the centres in both Thyolo and Blantyre have since hailed the TCE project, saying it should be rolled out in other districts.
The project was launched in 2007 and it targets districts such as Chiradzulu, Zomba, Thyolo, among others.
Malawi, according to health statistics, has about one million people living with the HIV, about half of which are on ARVs.