Mara Kumbweza Banda
Meet Mara Kumbweza Banda, a remarkable woman whose journey serves as an inspiration to us all. In the year 2000, Mara’s life took a drastic turn when she was tested HIV-positive. Faced with illness and discrimination from her community, Mara found herself in a discouraging and isolating situation. In 2000, it was a challenging time in Malawi, accessing life-saving medication, particularly antiretrovirals (ARVs), was an uphill battle. The scarcity of these medications increased deaths in Malawi. This only compounded Mara’s struggles, leaving her feeling helpless and alone in her fight against HIV. Yet, despite these immense challenges, Mara’s spirit remained unbroken. Drawing strength from her own experiences of stigma and discrimination, she made a courageous decision to turn her pain into purpose. In 2000, Mara took a bold step and established Paradiso Home Based Care which was registered in 2003, with the aim of providing support and care for vulnerable individuals affected by HIV and AIDS in her community. With unwavering determination and dedication, Mara, alongside her team of volunteers, embarked on a mission to bring hope and healing to those in need. Paradiso Home Based Care began humbly, offering essential services such as home visits, medication support, and emotional counseling to HIV-positive individuals and their families. As Mara immersed herself in her work, she soon recognized another pressing issue in her community: tuberculosis (TB). Witnessing the devastating impact of TB alongside HIV/AIDS, Mara knew she couldn’t stand idly by. In 2007, she expanded Paradiso Home Based Care into Paradiso TB Patients Trust, broadening its scope to address both TB and HIV/AIDS. Under Mara’s visionary leadership, Paradiso TB Patients Trust gave hope to those battling TB and HIV/AIDS in Malawi. The organization’s outreach extended far beyond medical care, encompassing community education, awareness campaigns, and advocacy initiatives to combat the stigma and misconceptions surrounding TB and HIV/AIDS. With each passing year, Mara’s dedication and passion for her work only grew stronger. Paradiso TB Patients Trust expanded its reach, operating in nine districts across Malawi and touching the lives of countless individuals. At the core of Paradiso’s approach are local TB clubs, comprised of TB survivors and volunteers housed within Ministry of Health’s Community Health Centers. These clubs serve as pillars of support, implementing vital activities within their communities, from awareness campaigns to patient follow-up and support. Central to Paradiso’s success are its partnerships, forged with stakeholders at every level of society. From government agencies to traditional leaders and civil society organizations, these collaborations amplify Paradiso’s voice and strengthen its impact on a national and international scale. Since 2018 alone, Paradiso’s efforts have reached over half a million individuals, delivering crucial TB and HIV/AIDS information and services to communities across Malawi. From screening and diagnosis to treatment support and rehabilitation, Paradiso’s holistic approach ensures that no one is left behind in the fight against these diseases. As Paradiso continues its mission to create a healthier, more equitable Malawi, Mara’s remains the back born for Paradiso and its operations .As she continues to lead the charge in the fight against TB and HIV/AIDS, Mara’s legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of one individual’s determination to make a difference.

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