THE CHURCH URGES MEN AND BOYS TO GO FOR HIV TESTING AND ADHERE TO TREATMENT

Impressive e?orts to reduce the HIV epidemic have been made at both national and local levels. In 2018, 90% of people living with HIV were aware of their status, of which 87% were on treatment, of which 89% were virally suppressed. This equates to 78% of all people living with HIV in Malawi on treatment and 69% of all people living with HIV being virally suppressed (HIV/AIDS in Malawi, 2018).

Despite this progress, statistics show that Stigma remains a key barrier to progress, particularly among men and boys who face many personal barriers to obtaining HIV testing and treatment.

It is against this background that the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) through the Health Commission and the Communications Commission, with funding from USAID through HP+ is implementing a Faith and Community Initiative project in Machinga (Traditional Authorities Kawinga and Liwonde) and Mangochi (Traditional Authorities Nankumba and Kapire) districts.

The project is aimed at Increasing the proportion of men and boys living with HIV who know    their status, are linked to care and have viral load suppression. The project also aims at strengthening the faith community ability to prevent sexual and gender-based violence against women and children

This is because as the country is working hard to fight the HIV pandemic, most men and boys, as compared to women, do not go for HIV testing, if they go and they are found positive, most do not start treatment and worse still most men and boys who are on treatment do not adhere to it. This happens because of believes, pride, stigma and discrimination among other things

The ECM is therefore working with religious leaders, Chiefs, Health centers, support groups, expert clients and volunteers consisting of men and boys in Mangochi and Machinga districts to reach out to men and boys with messages of hope about HIV/AIDS and also against violence against Children.

To achieve this, the ECM is training faith leaders in HIV messaging and HIV Oral testing services and distribution of kits, navigating men and boys to HIV testing and bringing back to care those lost to follow up through expert clients, distributing Oral-quick test kits, Producing and airing radio and TV programs on HIV prevention, testing, treatment and ART adherence on Radio Maria Malawi, Dzimwe community radio and Luntha TV, disseminating messages of hope in hard to reach areas among other things.

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