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HIV support group strengthening domestic partnerships in Malawi

January 9th, 2013 by Posted in English, Health, Malawi

By Priyal Pillay

 Malingunde community members. Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

Malingunde community members. Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

Oxfam partner, The Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS(COWLHA) have been involved in a 3 year programme focussing on Gender Based Violence and HIV counselling in six districts in Malawi. One such district is Malingunde , 40 kilometres outside of Lilongwe. Here, a 83 strong Support Group (all currently living with HIV) have taken a dynamic approach to building domestic relationships through open and honest discussions on issues pertaining to the disease.

The project through the use of the Stepping Stones methodology has enabled communities to discuss issues affecting their lives by raising awareness of HIV/Aids, strengthening families through mutual understanding, and removing the stigma attached to the disease. They have also started acting as marriage counsellors, teaching future couples about healthy and respectful sexual relationships.

 Miriam Haldi (38) and her husband candidly demonstrate the  new sexual positions they have learned. Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

Miriam Haldi (38) and her husband candidly demonstrate the new sexual positions they have learned. Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

 Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

Following a live demonstration with her husband on the new sexual positions she has learned through the programme, Miriam Haldi (38) comments, “My husband and I are now able to talk freely about our sexual relationships. Through the trainings we are now aware of multiple sexual positions, not just missionary and we have learned that sex does not only have to be in the bedroom. This knowledge has made our relationship stronger.”

Having lost one child to HIV/Aids, Miriam now has three healthy children aged 3, 18 and 21 with her youngest, a girl named ‘Endurance’, a testament to her survival during a time when both parents were severely affected by the disease.

Community leader VH Chikanke (45) is another individual who has also benefitted from the Support Group. Previously married to three women, Chikanke has as a result of his new knowledge decided to return to his first wife and first love to demonstrate his commitment.

 Community leader VH Chikanke (45).Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

Community leader VH Chikanke (45). Credit: Priyal Pillay/Oxfam

With an adult national HIV prevalence of 10.6%, Malawi’s HIV epidemic is one of the highest in Africa with the majority of transmissions occurring through unprotected heterosexual intercourse. Gender based violence has also led to many couples having multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, aggravating the spread of the disease.

COWLHA, an organisation conceived in 2006 aims to combat this by creating a united voice of women and girls living with HIV/Aids in addressing issues affecting them. COWLHA’s mandate is to address the women’s rights and gender implications of HIV/Aids on women.

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