Kasungu — A project which National Association of People Living with HIV and Aids in Malawi (NAPHAM) was implementing in three traditional authorities in Kasungu has helped to improve the lives of people living with HIV (PLHIV) through better services.
The project dubbed Positive Action for Equitable Access to Better Services for People Living with HIV and Aids and implemented in TAs Wimbe, Kaluluma and Njombwa has helped enlighten PLHIV to demand for their rights and lobby for quality health services.
According to Yohane Banda, Secretary of Wimbe HIV and Aids Support Group PLHIV were facing different problems in these areas but had no idea how to handle their problems.
"The big problem was discrimination of some nature as PLHIV are always sidelined in Public Works Program (PWP) and other development activities.
"Access to health services remained a challenge. Stock-out of Bactrim in health centres was order of the day and shortage of staff in these health centres coupled with no space for receiving Anti- retro viral therapy (ART) meant that PLHIV were combined with other patients," said Banda.
He added that the PLHIV were also not being incorporated in different structures that are there at village level.
However with the project by NAPHAM things have changed for the better according to Banda.
He added: "The project has opened our eyes and now we can solve these problems without any hassles. We can easily sit down and discuss with health service providers, traditional leaders and other concerned people [whenever there is a problem to solve]."
NAPHAM District Coordinator Mphatso Mbewe told Malawi News Agency (Mana) that the project's focus was to ensure that PLHIV should get better services.
Mbewe said with the challenges that the people were facing there was need for an intervention to help them.
"We engaged support groups and Community Based Organisation on advocacy, research, budget tracking and media engagement. We also had lobby meetings with health service providers, faith leaders and traditional leaders,
"It appears at the moment the support groups have been empowered to engage these stakeholders when they feel that things are not going on well," said Mbewe.
Mbewe added that through awareness campaigns and sensitization meetings with communities on how to work with PLHIV there is opening up of the people to accommodate PLHIV.
The Oxfam funded project worked with two support groups in each of the three TAs.