Stigma and non-disclosure are among the leading factors that are fuelling defaulting of life prolonging drugs amongst people living with HIV.
This has been disclosed by members of Tigwirizane Support Group in the area of Sub Traditional Authority Tsikulamowa in Ntcheu district.
Speaking in an interview, member of the group, Ernest Miliward Dimba said most ARV defaulters of the ARVs cited stigma and the fear of letting their partners know about their status as the main challenges.
He however was quick to mention that, their group has counselled and assisted several defaulters who were very sick to resume adhering to treatment, and have since regained their good health.
Giving his personal testimony, Dimba himself said he is a living example and beneficiary of this counselling.
“In 2006, I defaulted ARVs for three months, only to get back on track after receiving support from the group,” he said, adding:
“I just lost interest in taking medication and thought I could still be in good health but to my surprise sickness was the older of the day,” he said.
He alluded to the fact that his body was swelling and he was being battered by different kinds of diseases.
After noticing changes in his health, members of Tigwirizane Support Group started visiting Ernest Miliward Dimba for counselling and in no time he was back on ART.
Ten years down the line, Dimba is now enjoying good health and he urges all those who are HIV positive to adhere to drugs at all times.
In a related case, Amina Patrick tested positive in 2001 but stopped taking drugs in 2014.
After staying for a year without taking drugs her body started swelling such that members of Tigwirizane Support Group, a group she now subscribes to, needed no special lens to see that something was terribly wrong with her.
“Three support group members came to my place and after providing counselling they took me to the hospital where I was assisted and as you can see I am now enjoying good health,” she said.
Asked on why she had stopped taking the much needed drugs, Patrick could only say, “I got tired of the drugs and felt stigmatized.”
Patrick urges all those who are HIV positive and have abandoned ARVs due to whatever reason to start adhering to drugs as prescribed by health personnel.
Tigwirizane support group is a group of HIV/AIDS women and men who were trained on PMTCT by Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) under a project called Investing for Impact against TB and HIV with financial support from Action Aid through Christian Aid.