Promoting Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing in Malawi

Promoting Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing in Malawi

Annie Likhutu, shown right, receiving volunteer HIV counseling and testing services from Word Alive’s HTC volunteer, Charles Sapala.

Three months ago, Annie Likhutu, a mother of six, came to Migowi Health Center in Phalombe, Malawi to receive voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT); now, she is back at the health center and ready to be tested for a second time.“It is very important to know your status, it is no good waiting until you get sick,” she said.

Annie initially learned of the importance of testing through a radio advertisement from Word Alive Ministries International (WAMI), which is aired regularly and encourages listeners to go to health centers for VCT.

Although Annie takes pride in knowing her status and encourages others in her village to do so, her husband refuses to go for testing. This motivates Annie to continue returning to confirm her negative status.

In January 2010, WAMI began providing VCT services in Phalombe’s health centers through a pilot nongovernmental organization (NGO) grant program, funded by USAID’s Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival (BASICS) project.

Through this program, counselors were deployed to health facilities and linked to a Health Surveillance Assistant to assist in conducting VCT.

If Annie would have visited Migowi Health Center a year ago, she may not have received the HIV testing and counseling services wanted. Before WAMI provided their support, the Migowi Health Center only had one Health Surveillance Assistant who performed HIV testing and counseling, as well as many other duties, it was difficult to meet the demand.

Now, with the additional support of two HIV testing and counseling counselors, the Migowi Health Center has significantly increased the number of patients receiving VCT.  Approximately 40 patients per day are tested, which is about three times more than before. The majority of clients say they learned about the services on the radio.

Through USAID/BASICS, two NGO’s---WAMI and Friend of AIDS Support Trust (FAST)---are now providing VCT services in 12 facilities in Phalombe and Nsanje, Malawi. 25,130 VCT sessions have been conducted; 15,816 in Phalombe (WAMI) and 9,314 in Nsanje (FAST).

The success of this VCT program has shown that government employed staff are not always needed to effectively conduct VCT services. The use of counselors in conducting VCT is just as successful.

BASICS/Malawi is led by MSH.

Keriann Schulkers is a Technical Officer at MSH.