From Mulanje to the World: The encounter of an HIV and AIDS Campaigner
My last outreach trip as president of College of Medicine AIDS Counseling and Training Society took me to Mulanje secondary school with my team on a National AIDS Commission (NAC) funded project. The team had gone there to train some students, counsel, conduct a behavioral change and condom awareness campaign.
While there something truly inspiring happened that changed my look at HIV and AIDS completely. I have shared this story several times but each time I do, it feels new. Today I will share it again because finally I’m taking my work as an HIV and AIDS prevention worker to the next level.
After I had finished my presentation on “safe sex”, a young boy approached me. This was around 15:30 or 16:00. I’m not quite sure about the time except I remember the driver of the school bus had placed tremendous pressure on time. We were late and the school bus we had hire had to be on campus before 16:30.
So as the boy approached me I was hurrying to go board the bus. But the kid said in Chichewa, “I really would love to speak to you for a brief time”. I said “I’m in a hurry, be real quick”.
He needed help because of an issue that had been bothering him starting with “I was so inspired by what you said up there”. He told me that he was born with HIV in 2002 and 13 years later he was on ARVs.
My body took a chill looking at how glorious the child looked, not that HIV positive people shouldn’t look so or that it was my first time meeting one like that. NO. There was just something special about this moment.
As he carried on tears started dripped his cheeks. He said, the ARV drugs he had been taking were giving him side effects and in particular, “too much anxiety” among others. He began weeping right in front of me. In all my time as an HIV campaigner I had never come so close to the realities of the burden of HIV on humanity.
I offered some advice to this kid but I couldn’t finish because the horn beckoned and someone yelled, “Mphande let’s go!” I panicked as I wrote this kid’s name on a piece of paper while assuring him I will get him some help.
I had so many papers in my hand that I forgot the name and never found that particular paper again. As you would tell that was the end. I regret the way I handled the situation to this very moment.
But from that day I vowed, “I will do this work till the day HIV ends”. I’m an HIV campaigner and a very good one. I want to become better at this work every day. When I got out of College a few months ago I tried applying for some HIV outreach jobs and I haven’t been very successful but finally I have decided to do this work by starting an organization for and by young people. I know it will be a success.
Today, December 1, the world celebrates the World AIDS day. A lot of money has been spent. Some of this money rightly spent and some of it not. Well, that’s the world we live in. But what about this kid? What is the world doing for him? I chose not to be a complainer and so last month, my friends and I started Forum for AIDS Counselling and Training (FACT) with the motto “No Young Person Left Behind”. We will reach out to every young person we can manage with these services.