The Episcopal Conference of Malawi, through the Health and Communications Commissions, has encouraged businessmen in Machinga and Mangochi districts to seek HIV/AIDS services and encourage other men and boys they meet during their businesses do the same.

The ECM passed the message during message dissemination meetings with the businessmen on HIV Testing, Treatment and Treatment adherence in the districts. The meetings were aimed at training the men on the right messages about HIV/AIDS and encourage them to reach out to other men and boys with the messages through their businesses which will encourage more men and boys go for HIV testing and seek treatment.

Speaking during the meetings, Health Programs Coordinator, Mariana Nyawenda, said businessmen are so crucial in reaching out to men and boys with HIV messages which will help to address the problem of men ragging behind in accessing HIV/AIDS services due to personal barriers, myths and misconceptions and other reasons.

“Men do not seek HIV/AIDS services as compared to women, most of them don’t go for HIV testing, those found positive do not start treatment on time and don’t like joining support groups where people living with HIV discuss, share issues and encourage each other on positive living.  Those men who start treatment, do not adhere to it. This is because men feel they are too busy to go to the hospital, feel Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is for sick people, it is a burden and fear that others will find out they are on ART. We would like you to help spread right messages about HIV/AIDS services that will encourage men and boys to go for HIV testing, seek treatment and adhere to it if found positive. Saidi Nyawenda.

She continued by encouraging the men to realize that HIV treatment is important if started early, as it helps those HIV positive live a health life by restoring the immune system which helps people live with HIV and not progress to AIDS, which affects businesses and other developmental activities men do in their everyday lives.

Mr. Samuel Chapusa who spoke on behalf of the businessmen said the meetings have addressed the fear men and boys have regarding HIV/AIDS which mostly comes from misinformation and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.

“Now we understand that HIV testing is the only way to know one’s HIV status which is so important in planning our lives and future. Men have fears because we do not like patronizing HIV sensitization meetings like this because we feel they are a waste of time as by the end of the day, we have to provide for our families. We have been encouraged with the messages and we will share with other men whom we deal with every day in our businesses.” Said Mr. Chapusa.

He further thanked ECM for targeting men and boys in the meetings because according to him, many of them do not have the right information about HIV/AIDS which makes them behave as if they are not at risk of the pandemic.

The men were also sensitized on HIV self-testing through Oral-self test Kits which were accessed by some during the meetings and were also encouraged to make other men know about the service.

The meetings were conducted under the Faith and Community Initiative (FCI) project which is being implemented in Traditional Authorities Kawinga and Liwonde in Machinga district and Nankumba and Chilipa in Mangochi districts with funding from USAID through Health Policy Plus.