Thanks to Project HOPE and its partners, more than 85,000 high risk people benefited from HIV testing and counseling in Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia last year. For many, including Meria and her six-year-old daughter Chisomo in Malawi, the programs are a lifesaver.
Meria had experienced persistent diarrhea and headaches. Too weak to walk to the nearest health center 10 kilometers away, she was unsure of the cause, until community health workers at One Community Malawi stepped in.
One Community is an initiative that aims to mitigate the impact of HIV while preventing new infections in high risks areas. The initiative is funded by PEPFAR through USAID and implemented by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs in partnership with Project HOPE, Plan International and Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance.
A Community Resource Person (CRP) from One Community visited Meria’s village to offer health education and services at a nearby church compound where she was able to find help. At the end of a group session that day, Meria and some others agreed to take an HIV test. She found out she was HIV positive.
Two weeks later, she received an unexpected visit from another CRP with One Community, who had come back to follow up on Meria’s treatment and offered further counselling. This time, she went to the health center and received Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and peanut-based nutritional supplements.
When the CRP made a second home visit to check on Meria and link her to a local support group, he noticed six-year-old Chisomo was sick. He advised Meria to take Chisomo to the health center and encouraged her to bring all her children for HIV testing when One Community was back in the village in a few days.
Six-year-old Chisomo tested positive and was started on ART. She was admitted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit where she was discharged a month-and-a-half later after her condition improved.
“I was taught about how I can disclose to her; the first step I have taken is to inform her of the importance of taking her medication. I told her that it is the reason she is not sick as she was before. She understands and sometimes informs me that she needs to take her medication before I tell her to,” explained Meria.
Motivated by the need to demonstrate positive living to Chisomo who will one day become fully aware of her status, Meria has become a community champion for HIV testing.
“My HIV status is not a secret. I disclose to everyone because I have experienced how close to death not knowing my status brought me. I do not want the same for the people around me. So now, as much as I can, I tell people to get tested,” says Meria.
From her advocacy work she has referred more than six people for testing. Two tested positive and joined Meria’s support group and together, they continue to work and assist each other with our daily lives.
For more information on One Community please visit the website www.onecommunitymw.org.
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