When she tested HIV positive in 1995, she took it upon herself to caution others about the disease and ensure they don’t find themselves in a similar situation. Five years later, Kenrinie Makutu registered an organisation to disseminate HIV related precautionary information to the infected and affected. Her Positive Mind Initiative (PMI) goes an extra mile to help people in eventualities such as deaths or other calamities. She has over 5 000 members from different countries. Our correspondent, FRANCIS NUNDWE had a chat with her. Excerpts:
Tell me about yourself.
I was born to Beatrice and Lameck Makutu on January 41975. I am a third born in a family of seven children; four girls and three boys. I come from Kalitsiro Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Njolomole in Ntcheu. After I was tested HIV positive, my interest in managing it rose. The initiative has a core purpose of caring for HIV infected people, sharing information and how to live with it positively.
Describe your upbringing.
I was brought up in a family of loving and caring parents. I always thank God for their style of upbringing. They worked hard for me to attain the best education. I learned love while growing up with my cousins and uncles under the care of my parents. I attained primary, secondary and tertiary education under their support. I tested positive soon after my marriage in 1994 when I lost my child of three who succumbed to bronchitis. I realised that information is vital in our livelihoods since there was no clear remedy in place. I gave myself time to read magazines and books about HIV and Aids.
Tell me about your education and experience in HIV management.
I attended Likuni and Nambuma primary schools. In 1989, I went to Liwaladzi Secondary School before Central College of Commerce. In 1995, I went to St Joseph Teacher Training School in Dedza and qualified as a primary school teacher. I have taught a number of schools, but quit the profession in 2002.
In 1996, I intensified my research on HIV. Each time I got ill, I flipped through books such as You and Your Health and Get to understand how to manage HIV well. These books helped me a lot. In 2004, I registered my organisation.
Why did you opt to care for those with HIV?
I have passion for other people’s health and lives. I lost my daughter because I lacked information. I cry to see one dying of Aids due to negligence.
What type of information do you disseminate?
We want people to live with positive minds. Though we are infected, living a normal life is inevitable as long as one adheres to advice. Being HIV positive can be stressful if you don’t have friends and family to share your plight. In PMI, we have doctors and nurses to share information on how one can take care of his wellbeing. Of late, we have started assisting members in times of death and other calamities.
Who funds you?
We ask our members to contribute and the same is donated to beneficiaries.
How else do you disseminate information to members?
We have Facebook page called Positive Mind Initiative. We visit each other in different locations to ensure that we are all living as a happy family. Others call, get invited to meetings and the group swells. In future, we are planning to use mass media so that Malawi can be saved from this pandemic.
Are your members all positive?
No! We rope in anybody without looking at their sero-status. We believe that if one is negative, there is one in the vicinity who is positive. They should impart the information to others or those they are caring. HIV fight is a not a one man’s job. We need to join hands and fight.
What are some PMI’s achievements?
We have reached out to more than 5 000 people. We have members in the group who have adopted children from families who cannot afford to take good care of their children. Members of PMI are willing to share their life experience and how they manage to keep healthy with minimal resources at their disposal. We recently donated household items to people of Chilobwe Township and a small startup capital for an HIV woman in camp. We need more people to join us.
How many members do you have?
We have over 5 600 members. The figure comprises members from countries such as America, South Africa, Tanzania, among other areas. We have a cross-section of professionals ranging from doctors, engineers, students and accountants.
How do you plan your day?
When I wake up in the morning, I pray then check communication from members if there are burning issues before leaving for office. With the help of colleagues, we work as a team and plan who to visit and help in hospital.
What are your future plans?
PMI is planning to have a good office in Blantyre and rope in more members into the network. We are also planning of opening a website before sending proposals to different donors. Funds willing, we will have branches in different areas and overseas. Very soon, we are going to target the rural masses and provide support at their door steps. We will incorporate village heads to identify those in need.
What are your challenges?
We don’t have funds to cater for needs of our members. If we had donors around, a lot people would have been assisted. How I wished we had good offices and a car to be used in our gatherings. If we start writing proposals, I am sure things will change to the better.
What are memorable moments in your life?
When I registered this organisation in 2004 and when I lost my elder sister in 2004. She was a partner and business associate.
What do you like doing in your free time?
I like cooking and reading magazines. I sometimes enjoy watching movies with my children.
And, your best dish?
I like nsima made from a mixture of sorghum, millet and maize flour. This will go down well with chambo and moringa.
I urge people to go for voluntary counseling and testing (VCT). Parents should also open up to their children and share adequate knowledge pertaining to HIV. For those who are HIV positive, let’s make life easy for the health service providers by ensuring that we let them know of our status when seeking medical help. n