While other chiefs in the country are pitied for discriminating against people living with HIV/AIDS, traditional leaders in Ntcheu district are envied for their exploits on Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), after undergoing trainings by Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO).
Village Headman Bwesi Two of Traditional Authority Phambala who is also an expert client at Kapeni Rural Hospital, started referring people who are HIV positive to different support groups after being trained on PMTCT by YONECO under Investing for impact against TB/HIV project .
“When I tested positive in 2008 I had a mixed bag of emotions, on one hand, as a chief I was ashamed that people would think I am a womanizer. Whilst on the other hand I took it as an opportunity to encourage other people living with the disease to have a positive attitude,” he said.
In order to achieve his ambitions of helping people who are HIV positive, Village Head Bwesi in collaboration with other chiefs connected themselves to support groups that were trained on PMTCT by YONECO.
To this day, the chiefs advocate for drug adherence among those who are HIV/AIDS positively and also encourage women to go for antenatal care as advised by health experts so as to achieve PMTCT.
As a sign of change, Village Headman Bwesi Two said before joining support groups in 2008, out of 10 children born of an HIV/AIDS Woman only four were being born negative a situation that is completely different from now when out of 10 children all are tested negative representing a 100 percent record.
Adding to what Village Headman Bwesi said, Garvey Chiwongo who is Village Headman Kammwamba 1 said as chiefs they make sure that people living with HIV/AIDS are not sidelined when it comes to any developmental activity.
“We tell people never to discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS and that any donation by either government or organizations that community members are supposed to receive reaches them,” he said.
The Chiefs express gratitude to YONECO for the good job and for connecting them to support groups, a platform that has turned them into role models on issues of HIV/AIDS through counselling.
YONECO is implementing a project called investing for Impact against TB and HIV with financial support from Action Aid through Christian Aid.
The project is being implemented in nine districts namely; Zomba, Mangochi, Chiradzulu, Mulanje, Ntcheu, Ntchisi, Nchinji, Nkhata Bay and Likoma.