Community Resource person Felix Chipoya (L) and Edina Sitande (R ) during one of their bi-weekly home visit
Community Resource person Felix Chipoya (L) and Edina Sitande (R ) during one of their bi-weekly home visit

Towards an HIV Free Generation, One Community Member at a Time

Jul 09 2017

For months on end, sickness was a term 24 year old Edina Sitande was very familiar with. In the months of December 2016 her situation had gotten so bad that she could barely care for her children. Her husband’s disappearance from the village to remarry did not help with her situation.

A dedicated mother of 2, Edina comes from Machinga, a district in the southern region of Malawi where the burden of HIV has left 14.5% of the population vulnerable. Yet this statistic did not resonate with Edina.

“Even when I was at my weakest state, HIV was not what concerned me; I assumed I had malaria as the disease was rampant in the area.” Edina reminisced.

Edina only discovered her diagnosis when their Chief called for a community meeting to introduce One Community, A USAID funded community based activity aimed at mitigating the impact of HIV and preventing new infection in the southern region of Malawi. During the meeting, the Chief advocated for members of the community to participate in the community testing exercise that was being carried out by the HIV Testing Providers brought by the activity.

“I got tested and the results shocked me. I was informed that I would be receiving help from One Community but I remember still going back home with a very heavy heart. A few days later I was visited by CRP Felix who has been of great help.” Shared Edina.

Thirty-three-year-old Felix Chipoya, is among 1,732 community health volunteers, locally known as CRPs (Community Resource Persons) dedicating their time and efforts reaching out to vulnerable people in communities towards fulfilling One Community’s objectives. Felix was identified by the Chairperson of his Community Based Organization (CBO) due to his hardworking nature and his enthusiasm towards volunteer work. Felix was immensely delighted by the news, and the projects goal to bring health care closer to community members was an initiative he felt proud to be a part of.

“I had no previous background in health work, but I was informed about the support and preparation I would receive.” Shared Felix

Just like all other CRPs, Felix was trained in comprehensive health and social services focusing on UNAIDS’s 90-90-90 target - To test 90% of the population, get 90% of the people who test positive on treatment, to ensure that 90% of the people on treatment have their viral load suppressed. Here Felix delivers community health and social services to the most vulnerable households which have Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) using the tools and job aids he was given. Trained and equipped, he cycles through communities to delivers services to 35 households in Wotchi Village, Machinga.

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Felix visiting Edina and her family

“Before our work, very few people were getting tested, some because of long distances to health centers and for others, they simply did not see the importance of getting tested.” Said Felix. “Now people demand for HIV Testing Services. We work hard to mobilize the community and with the help of Community Engagement Facilitators, we are making sure that more and more people are able to get tested closer to their homes.”

Just like Edina, for everyone who tests positive, Felix is able to refer them to the health facility where they meet with the Recruitment and Linkage facilitator who makes sure they receive appropriate clinical care and support.

 Back at the community Felix visits his clients regularly ensuring that they are living healthy lives. He also looks at their social and economic well-being. For clients in need of extra support he is able to identify and refer them to platforms that offer the necessary help.

“I work very closely with the CBO in my area, the Child Protection worker, the Victim Support Committee and Village Saving and Loan groups.” Said Felix proudly. “One of the highpoints from this form of collaboration has been the identification of school support for seven girls who were out of school due to lack of funding. To do this, I informed the Child Protection Worker of the problem and now all seven girls have gone back to school with support from Save the Children.”

With his mentorship, Felix is also ensuring financial efficacy of 25 vulnerable members of his community through the Village Saving and Loan groups established by One Community.

“My nine months as a CRP has taught me a lot.” Felix said with a smile “Even after the One Community project ends, my CBO and I will continue to implement activities in our community until everyone knows their status and they are on treatment. I would like to see one day my children live in a world without HIV.”

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