HIV and AIDS: Overcoming stigma and stereotypes in Mozambique
At 22 years old, Matilde Alfiado and her friends aren’t afraid to ask for condoms. In the northern Mozambican costal village of Vilanculos, HIV prevalence has reached 12.5% and general understanding of HIV is low.
But Matilde learned first-hand of its seriousness and its devastating potential. It was just a few months ago when she first arrived at the Vilanculos Rural Hospital with a skin infection that had spread from one of her legs, to almost her entire body. She felt sick, with a cough and diarrhoea that had lasted for weeks.
The hospital, supported and funded through CARE’s HIV intervention programme, was able to treat her symptoms and perform blood tests. It turns out the skin infection and other problems were a result of her weak immune system due to being HIV positive. Within a week the clinic was able to start her on anti-retroviral medications to boost her immune system.
CARE's programme called Mais-Vida, meaning 'more life' in Portuguese, includes counselling and education for people living with HIV. The healthcare system of Mozambique is supported by training and educating government staff for early recognition of the symptoms of AIDS and in the precautionary measures available.
The Mais-Vida mobile clinic services reach even the most remote areas, and people who cannot make the trip to the hospital themselves. With the support of CARE’s interventions, the hospital has more than doubled the number of identified HIV cases in the three districts included in the programme, and 92 healthcare workers have been trained on identification, treatment and follow-up of HIV/AIDS and the common secondary infections.
Since her first visit to the Vilanculos Rural Hospital, Matilde has now become an advocate for diagnosing and treatment of HIV.
I tell my friends and family to come to the clinic to get tested. I've brought my mother, sister and 6 year old daughter - and all of their tests have come back negative.
Matilde is well aware that the education and the medicines she is receiving from CARE and the hospital have saved her life. "I don’t know what I would have done if the clinic was not here", she said. "I was so sick and my family didn’t have any way to help me."
Now she comes regularly to the clinic for support, counselling and medicine to keep her immune system strong. She has no re-occurring signs of the infection and has gained 11 kilos since she first came to the hospital.
"This is one of our main indicators that the medications are working," says CARE project director Doctor Giwa. "I was here when Matilde first came into the hospital, she was thin and covered in a skin infection. The anti-viral medication cleared up her secondary symptoms and allowed her the opportunity to enjoy her life."
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