World AIDs Day

When the Malealea Development Trust’s HIV Support Group marches down the street on the first of December, they call for attention in every way. They are chanting, singing, clapping, and dancing. They’ve made signs. They are wearing bright red shirts that proudly proclaim “HIV Positive!”

DSCN2472In Malealea, where a nearly a quarter of the population is HIV+, there is no room for stigma. There is only room for certainty and for treatment. They wear their status with pride because they are proud to know it. They are proud that they took the necessary plunge, got tested, and know the truth. Knowing the truth means that they can deal with it. They go to the clinic and consult with their doctor, they take their medications with care, and they can protect the ones they love from transmission.

The stigma surrounding HIV is harmful because it can prevent people from taking those necessary steps, increasing mortality by HIV due to lack of proper treatment and high rates of transmission. In Malealea, that stigma has been worn away by the MDT as they combat misinformation. HIV is not an indicator of sexual deviance and drug abuse – it can be passed from mother to innocent child, or between loving, but unknowing, husband and wife.

Every World AIDs Day, the support group takes to the streets for an MDT-sponsored fun-filled awareness and testing event. They march throughout the village and invite everyone to join. At the end of their march they gather at the Community Hall for a commemoration, remembering those who have been lost.

The local clinic is also invited. Counsellors set up a testing area and encourage everyone to find out their status. The clinic provides quizzes and games that test everyone’s knowledge about HIV and award prizes to the most knowledgeable. The support group and kids from a local Bible group perform dramas they have prepared that teach about HIV.

After, they share a meal together and play sports, emphasizing the link between maintaining good physical health and managing HIV.

The entire day emphasizes that it is possible to live a positive life when one is HIV+, but to do so you must know.

In order to reach new people in the community, the World AIDs Day 2017 march route has been changed. It will now end at the Botsoela Primary School, rather than the Community Center.

 

 

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Elderly Care

Project Coordinator Mateke Rakojoana wants to help support the elderly in this community. This is a sector of our work that is new and expanding.

For now, Mateke distributes vitamins to community members who are over 70 each winter when it is most difficult to ensure that one is eating a fully balanced diet, especially at that age. The vitamin packets include vitamin C, calcium gluconate, gulf calcium gluconate, vitamin B, and MultiFit, a supplement that is supposed to help maintain a healthy appetite.

Mateke would like to begin a program that would provide physical therapy to the elderly. She is researching how to begin this project, and would like help from a professional. We are currently looking for a volunteer who could come and teach physical therapy techniques specifically for elderly people, to safely help them become stronger and stay flexible. Flexibility and strength are key for mobility and freedom.

Please get in touch with us or donate to help.

 

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Nutritional Support Program for People with HIV & AIDs

To manage HIV, doctors prescribe many different kinds of antiretroviral drugs, but they all have something in common: extremely severe, life-altering potential side effects. People can feel nauseated, weak, depressed, develop ulcers, or experience a host of other unpleasant symptoms. The alternative, however, is not taking the medication – letting the HIV run wild, degrading the body and ultimately claiming another victim’s life.

To mitigate the side effects and to ensure effectiveness, patients must take their medications exactly as their doctor has prescribed. For all regimens, getting adequate nutrition for the body is crucial. For HIV-positive people in Malealea, that can be easier said than done.

There are about 530 HIV-positive people living in the 21 villages we at the MDT look after. All 530 of these patients are eligible to collect three bags of E’pap per month from our office. E’pap is an instant porridge that requires no heat for preparation. The powder simply needs to be combined with water or milk and it is ready. Each bag is 500 grams, and a serving is 50 grams, so each person receives 30 servings per month. This is about one serving per day, and each serving is about 740 calories. This amounts to be a significant portion of their daily caloric need.

Of the 530 eligible recipients, 32 are aged 17 or younger. The average age is 42.

Each month, about 300 of the eligible recipients come to collect their E’pap. Many people leave Malealea to work and cannot come to collect that month. Our standard distribution day is every Tuesday, but someone is in our office every single day of the week for people who cannot make it on Tuesdays.

This E’pap, calorically dense and simple to prepare, reduces a great strain on the lives of our HIV-positive community members. It protects them from the medication that protects them from their condition.

 

How your support can help:

  • Any donation of funds can help support the cost of this program and keep another person well fed, healthy, happy, and productive

 

 

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HIV/AIDs Support Group

MDT Project Coordinator Mateke Rakojoama was a teacher before she joined the staff, and when she is leading, that shows.

She is standing at the front of the Community Hall, facing a group of about 30 people, most of whom are women much older than she is, all of whom are HIV+. She has asked for five volunteers and at first no one budges, but Mateke will wait.

IMG_1324A few of the women finally gather in the middle of the room and form the tight-knit circle she has called for. One person stands in the center and she urges the other women to crowd around her even closer.

She then instructs the woman in the center, standing as rigidly as a board, to let go. To relax all of her muscles, to release all tension, to make no effort to stay up right. Slowly, she sways into the other woman, who push back gently against her. Her face melts. She was once perplexed, but now she is at peace.

After a minute of this, Mateke tells them to switch it up. Another person is shuffled into the middle, and this time it is she who leans into the other women who form a wall of protection around her. She can’t help but laugh.

A few more groups try, and once the laughter has bubbled into a cacophony of mirth, Mateke silences everyone. She asks them all to think about how it felt to be supported. How it felt to be supportive.

“I didn’t understand what you were saying when you told me to let go,” one of the women volunteers. “I didn’t understand how I wouldn’t fall. And then when I was in the circle I realized, of course, I wouldn’t let her fall.”

Mateke smiles, having made her point. That is what Support Group is all about. When you are dealt the hand of being HIV+, it can feel like an insurmountable challenge. It can be hard to imagine how to move forward. In this Support Group, they do not let each other fall prey to those thoughts.

It is possible to live a good and full life with HIV with a little help.

On the first Tuesday of the month, they go to the local clinic together for checkups and medication renewals. On the third Tuesday of every month they gather in the Community Hall for discussions and exercises like this one described above. In the past, Mateke has led discussions about everything from abuse and alcohol to love and family.

IMG_1460The group also splits into smaller groups of about four or five people who travel to other villages to educate them about HIV. They encourage people to get tested and know their status, as well as describe coping mechanisms for living with the condition, and how to support family members who may be HIV+. They also participate in a large World AIDs Day event of education in Malealea.

Their message is that it is always better to know and to take care of it, because it can be taken care of, than to live and deteriorate in ignorance.

Together, they vow to support each other, always, and to spread the word about living positively while positive.

 

Give now to support this project.

 

Back to Health & Well-Being, or explore our other key ares of focus: Community Development, Orphans & Vulnerable Children, and Education.