‘We teach each other’

Wilson Banda helps provide voluntary counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS in his community in rural Zambia. CLWR/J.Clark

Wilson Banda helps provide voluntary counseling and testing for HIV and AIDS in his community in rural Zambia. CLWR/J.Clark

Today is World AIDS Day, a day set aside to unite people in the fight against this devastating disease, and to recognize and support those who are affected. I was recently in Zambia and Mozambique, where HIV and AIDS is unfortunately all too common. In Zambia’s Katete district, about 16% of the people are living with HIV or AIDS. CLWR assists in fighting the HIV and AIDS pandemic by training villagers to become community health workers. One of the workers’ roles is to provide HIV and AIDS counseling and testing to their fellow community members.

In Malata village, Zambia, we met one of these workers. Wilson Banda, 32, has been a community health worker since 2008. He receives training by staff from the government district health office and now provides support to the local health centre.

“Whenever I come from training I explain what I have learned and then develop action plans,” says Wilson.

He educates his community on health and disease prevention, gives rapid diagnostic tests for illnesses like malaria, conducts growth monitoring for babies, provides mothers with nutrition information for their children, and provides voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for HIV and AIDS. People come individually or as couples to be tested for HIV, and those in need of antiretroviral drugs are linked to a nearby hospital.

Wilson has also helped lead an HIV and AIDS support group since 2009. These groups bring together people living with HIV and AIDS, to support one another, provide information, and encourage one another to live positively and productively. They also help reduce stigma and educate the community as a whole on HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support.

Although these groups are confidential, two members of the support group agreed to meet with us to share their stories. Malita Banda met with us with two of her children. She says she saw the importance of testing and so went to be tested for HIV. It has been six years since she tested positive. She takes her medication, and has also been provided with gardening training and a treadle pump, to help water her gardens and grow more food. She attends the support group twice a month.

Malita Banda (pictured here with two of her children) has benefitted from attending an HIV/AIDS support group. CLWR/J.Clark

Malita Banda (pictured here with two of her children) has benefitted from attending an HIV/AIDS support group. CLWR/J.Clark

“When we meet, we teach each other,” Malita says. She says she has been doing well, and is benefitting from her medications and the support she receives in the group.

“Those who aren’t in the group can’t compare to me!”

Margaret Banda and Malita Banda (standing), Wilson Banda sitting. Margaret and Malita attend the HIV/AIDS support group Wilson helps lead. CLWR/J.Clark

Margaret Banda and Malita Banda (standing), Wilson Banda sitting. Margaret and Malita attend the HIV/AIDS support group Wilson helps lead. CLWR/J.Clark

Margaret Banda has also seen the benefits of attending the group. Before, she says, she was chronically ill, but now she receives medication from the government and can better manage her health. Before treatment she gave birth to a child who is HIV positive, but since receiving treatment the twins she gave birth to after tested negative.

Jennifer Clark

CLWR Program Assistant – Community Relations

You can give a Gift from the Heart and help community health workers like Wilson get the supplies they need:

Medical Kit

Mosquito Net

Our partner the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance has some resources on HIV and AIDS that you can use individually or as a congregation:

2012 Daily Devotional Advent Calendar, available at advent.ecumenicaladvocacy.org

World AIDS Day liturgy, available at e-alliance.ch/en/s/hivaids/world-aids-day/

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