My name is White Banipa Gondwe. I live in Maldeco, a well known place in Mangochi district. I always read your articles with keen interest. A habit has developed in me of buying the Weekend Nation every week to see what is in your column.
I find your articles very helpful and really “lifting the lid on HIV/Aids”, looking at the nature of information you provide in the column. I have learnt a lot about HIV/Aids through your writing.
One of your articles in the paper titled “Social network recruitment for undiagnosed HIV”, dated February 15, 2014, had something particularly striking for me. Thus, I have been prompted to give my first ever feedback to your articles.
In the article, you expressed curiosity about how a person, HIV positive or negative can convince a friend or a family member to participate in a” health promotion programme” that may include an HIV test. It’s not easy. No wonder, the study at Kamuzu Central Hospital had to involve paying the participants in one-way or another.
I think one significant stumbling block, which is often overlooked, in this journey to an HIV-free nation is that there is this large group of people who prefer to live without knowing their status. This group of people lives by the motto “ngati zinada, zinada basi”, and some of them lead careless and risky sexual lives. This silently increases the rate of HIV transmission and significantly impedes the fight against Aids.
It is not easy to convince a person to go for an HIV test, unless there is a compelling reason for them to go for voluntary testing and counselling (VCT). For instance, one may find themselves accepting an HIV test simply because it is an important stage towards getting married, or because they are very ill that the test must decide the right medication, or because they are pregnant and the test will help prevent mother -to-child transmission. Yet, we do not have to wait for such reasons to go for an HIV test.
To specifically target such people, some Malawians have founded an NGO (I happen to be a co-founder) called Fimoenhstam. The organisation which is awaiting registration is fully called Financial Incentive for Maintenance of Negative HIV Status in Malawi. The aim of the organisation is to help prevent the contraction of HIV virus and other STIs in the country by taking an advanced step in the fight against HIV/Aids.
Fimonehstam will be using a carefully and expertly designed strategy to convince even the most difficult group of people to go for an HIV test, and after testing negative, to maintain the negative status for the rest of one’s life by using financial incentives. Born a month ago, the NGO already has 30 members mainly from Maldeco and the number is expected to grow. The organisation is looking for stakeholders with whom it can be working hand in hand. Interested individuals are very welcome.
From Banipa Twane – firstname.lastname@example.org