Senior Chief Chikumbu of Mulanje has raised concern saying people living with HIV and AIDS in her area are constantly sidelined in development projects because of inadequate awareness amongst communities.
Senior Chief Chikumbu was speaking at Khaya Primary School ground in the area when Malawi Network of AIDS Services Organisation (MANASO) organised an open day aimed at sensitizing traditional leaders and community members on HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Act.
People living with HIV and AIDS in my area are subjected to various forms of abuses and discrimination. They are not included in most initiatives designed to protect the poor like public works and social cash transfer programmes because communities perceive them to be weak or unhealthy to partake in such projects, she said.
It is a pity that some traditional leaders are in the forefront sidelining such people in development when tasked to provide names of vulnerable people in their area, the traditional leader lamented.
Chief Chikumbu, therefore, described such behaviour as unacceptable in her area and advised community leaders as well as her subjects to end discrimination, saying such behaviour is a setback to development and a violation of human rights.
She, therefore, commended MANASO for sensitizing people on HIV and AIDS prevention and management, saying it would go a long way in reducing discrimination.
Chikumbu added that this would also change people’s perception towards those living with the virus so that they too can fully participate in national development activities.
I hope the messages brought today will change the mindset of people to see PLWHA just as normal people capable of contributing to development so that their human rights are not infringed upon, Chikumbu said.
Giving her testimony, Mary Kayange who was diagnosed with the disease in 2013 said people living with HIV and AIDS are productive in the community provided they adhere to medication.
When I was first diagnosed with HIV, I feared that it was the end of my life as a woman who relies heavily on farming to feed my family. But I was assured that by taking ARVs, I would be healthy enough to till the land and do carry out other household chores.
Six years have now gone and I am still farming and taking care of my family without problems, people cannot even tell that I am positive, Kayange testified.
MANASO Programmes Manager, Grace Massah said it was important for citizens to familiarize themselves with the new HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Act considering that it addresses issues regarding people living with HIV and their human rights.
We secured funding from UN Women to implement the Tikhale Tcheru project which is community-led to eliminate violence against women and girls, Massah said.
She said through the project, MANASO is also sensitizing community leaders on the new HIV Prevention and Management Law in three districts of Karonga, Salima and Mulanje where she observed HIV prevalence is high.
Massah added that knowledge of the law would benefit communities as people would now be able to know if their rights are being violated and be able to take the offenders to court.
She also stressed the need for people to familiarize themselves with the new Act which has provisions set to end discrimination.
Source: MANA Online