HIV/AIDS Education & Outreach

Over the last few years, the MCV field staff and village volunteers are making increasing efforts related to village outreach and education of HIV. There is HIV education to the primary and secondary students, training sessions for village volunteers, educational sessions for village chiefs, condom distribution and a recent addition HIV/AIDS drama presentation from a partner non profit, Together! ACT Now being presented to all the villages in the MCV  area. (More on the Together! ACT Now project here.) Now village support groups made up of those who are HIV positive and on Anti Retro Virals (ARVs) are developing throughout the villages.

It has been a forbidden subject and classified as the “secrets of the village” for reasons noted below. The principle reason stems from no ARVs being available to the general public until 2006.

The percentage of the population who are HIV positive is unknown. Estimates range from 9% in the North to 20% in the South. The Mangochi district where the MCV villages are located is on the lake shore and considered a holiday resort destination with a significant amount of prostitution. The HIV positive rates are estimated to be close to some of the highest rates in the country. The orphans, with few exceptions, are HIV free because of the simple fact that it was almost universally fatal by five years of age in a child born HIV positive and not on ARVs.

This lack of clarity of the prevalence of HIV is directly related to the unavailability of Anti Retroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat this disease. Because there was no treatment, no widespread testing was done. Why get tested with a fatal disease (if untreated), when no treatment was available? Given this late start and the difficulty of getting them distributed throughout the country, has significantly delayed the public discussions and acceptance of HIV.

The country’s first president, H. Kamuzu Banda, a medical doctor who ruled the country under single party rule until 1994, denied the presence of HIV in the country. It is now known that the very first cases of HIV were identified as early as 1985. It is a tragedy that even after the official acknowledgement of HIV in Malawi, it took another 10 years before ARVs became available to the general public.

Juma’s Story

In 2004 MCV teamed with Buffalo, NY based Full Circle Studios to create the film Juma’s Story.  The Movie was filmed in Malawi with MCV staff and local villagers acting as cast members.  The movie, which was released on DVD, was created to be used as an educational tool to spread HIV/AIDS awareness.

Juma’s Story Description:
This is a story of Africa. A story of the people of Malawi, a country known as the “warm heart of Africa”. A story of poverty, ignorance, and the deadly grip of the HIV-AIDS epidemic. A story of one person, Juma, a young man who showed great promise for himself and his country. Juma may be fictional, but the story of his life is repeated again and again across sub-Saharan Africa. Juma’s Story is a digital movie performed by the people of Malawi, in their own language, in their own words, to be shown to their own people, to start the dialog that could save the lives of millions.

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