Breaking the vicious cycle of ART defaults

Mangochi and Ntcheu districts have been registering a lot of cases of drug defaults by people who are on Anti-retroviral treatment. However the situation has changed for the better thanks to the Support Groups which were trained by Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO).

This has been revealed through a media tour that YONECO organized under Investing for Impact against TB/HIV project, which is being implemented with financial support from Action Aid through Christian Aid.

Under the project, YONECO formed and trained Support Groups to on one hand, reach out to drug defaulters; and on the other hand, reach out to more people to go for HIV testing in a bid to reduce the spread of the HIV virus. All this is aimed at complimenting government’s effort in achieving the 90-90-90 goal.

The 90-90-90- goal is to achieve 90% of the population to be test by 2020; the other 90% is that all tested should be placed on treatment and the last 90% is standing for suppression of viral load for patients on ART.

Speaking during an interface meeting, Director of Mtendere Support Group John Linje, said since acquiring the training, they have managed to reach out to many people who had stopped taking treatment for various reasons but have now gone back on treatment.

“The support groups were trained on HIV toolkit where among other things they were taught on the importance of adhering to treatment and how they can track defaulters to bring them back on treatment,” Linje said.

He further said they have managed to reach out to a lot of men by meeting them in the areas that they are most found like at the fishing sites and bawo among others.

Concurring with Linje is Chichere Ngwira, Chairperson of Tigwirizane Support Group.

Ngwira said at first a lot of men were not coming out for fear of being stigmatized while women were afraid of being divorced by their husbands.

“Through the trainings that we got from YONECO we were able to reach out to them and a lot of men have joined the support groups in reaching out to other people who are defaulting treatment and to also encourage others to go for HIV testing,” Ngwira said.

YONECO’s Community Based Educator for Senzani One village in the area of Sub Traditional Authority TsikuLamowa in Ntcheu district, is Charity Katete.

Katete said: “Since the support groups were trained by YONECO through this project the number of members have increased from 30 to 185 and we have managed to bring 30 males and 16 females back on treatment.”

YONECO under the Investing for Impact against TB/HIV project seeks to reduce mortality, morbidity and transmission rate of TB and HIV in communities through addressing gender, social norms, strengthened community systems, and integrated interventions contributing to the attainment of the 90-90-90 goals in the 2020 National HIV Strategic Plan.

The project, is being implemented in nine districts which include Ntcheu, Mchinji, Ntchisi, Mangochi, Likoma, Nkhata-Bay, Chiradzulu, Zomba and Mulanje.

So far, judging from the stories and testimonies on the ground, the communities are registering progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

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