It was on 19 th July, 2023 when the Technical Advisor Miss Mara Kumbweza Banda was informed that Hasnati Lulanga was being heavily stigmatized because of her HIV status. This happened due to the fact that she had disclosed to her landlady that she and her husband were HIV positive. Hasnati Lulanga stays with her two children because her husband has been taken by his relatives to his home in Blantyre due to his illness. Hasnati Lulanga remained behind because her husband’s family said that they did not have enough food to feed both her and her two children. The livelihood of Hasnati Lulanga is through small scale business in which she prepares an African beverage commonly as “Thobwa” and African snacks known as “zigege” which children are very fond of.

Hasnati Lulanga shared the confidential information of her ser-status with her landlady in good faith considering that she is an elderly woman and mother figure in the compound. She also did that with the hope that she will be able to receive support from her, since the land lady will be aware of her condition. For unknown reasons her landlady shared the confidential information with the other tenants in the compound.

One day Hasnati Lulanga as usual, started her business but she was very surprised that no one in the community came to buy her products. Later in the afternoon a girl wanted to buy the snacks “zigege” but she was stopped by one woman who told the girl not to buy anything from her because Hasnati Lulanga has a disease which will be passed to the girl and her family if she buys the snacks. When Hasnati Lulanga approached the neighbors, she was told that the landlady had warned everyone in the compound against her and she was about to get evicted because of her condition. The landlady said that she did not want to put children in the compound at risk because of her.

Community leaders had been informed of this conflict but had no idea on how there were going to handle it considering that HIV status is a very confidential issue. The community leaders decided to approach the Technical Advisor to find possible solution to this matter. While they were pondering on what action to take on the matter, on Saturday the 22 July, 2023, a commotion occurred at the compound, all tenants were throwing out Hasnati Lulanga from her house. Since the TA was at home, she heard the noise and went into the compound to see what was going on. Upon hearing the whole story, the TA decided to call for a for a focus group discussion so that all the people involved and other community members could come together to address the issue. A total of 20 members were invited to the proposed meeting including the officer in charge and head of victim support officer of Area 24 Police Unit. On Monday 24 of July all invited people met at TA residence to address the issue. The discussion was made using these agenda items:

1. Definition of women and gender-based violence
2. Types of violence
3. Primary targets of gender violence
4. What exacerbates gander-based violence
5. Protection of PLWHIV

In the discussion the TA used the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Management) ACT of Malawi to inform members of the community that what they were doing wrong and as such it was against the law. She also enlightened all participants on the penalties that come with the stigma and discrimination in the laws of the Malawi. The TA shared to the group that a research by the government conducted recently shows that every household in Malawi is affected by HIV in one way or the other. disclosed that she is a Sex Worker and she is living with HIV since 2000 and on ART. She further said that she does not share her status to people around her in fear of being discriminated by the community. However, she did not know clearly what the act indicates on issues of alleging that another person has HIV and the probable actions that could be taken against you. She indicated that in her condition she would be worried if someone would put her to account on an issue such as this. In response the Head of VSU assured her that there is no lenience and surly she would face the law. Another member Elizabeth Chaduka disclosed that she has children who are HIV Positive. She discouraged other members on discrimination due to HIV as this disease is affecting every house hold. The discussions were amicable and in the end there was an atmosphere that was of remorse and indeed those that had been fully involve in abusing Hasnati Lulanga apologized for what they had done.

In conclusion the community leaders told the TA that the discussion was an eye opener as thy had gained information and knowledge that would help them in dealing with the community at large as indeed these issues were quite rampant in the community. However, they lamented that they were only a small group which hand received this information whilst the community was quite large so they requested that this information should reach out to other members of the community so that this can benefit a lot of people in the community. The Head of VSU enlightened members of the community on some cases that can be prevented if people follow the laws and he also pleaded with the members to stop the discrimination and stigma due to HIV. In the end warned all members present that the Police would not hesitate to arrest anyone who will be sued in their office on the issues of gender-based violence and stigma and discrimination due to HIV. As a team from Paradiso, some observations were made following this discussion which were;

  • Disclosure is still an issue as people fear to be discriminated in the society
  • Those who discriminate and stigmatize others are also likely to be living with the virus
  • Stigma and discrimination are still alive even though people are no longer speaking about this, situation which is likely to continue to fuel the HIV Pandemic despite all gains made.
  • The is no support to families who are newly diagnosed with HIV and also lack nutritional

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