“'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11
I would like to introduce you to Grace Mankunba, a happily married young woman who is HIV positive. With her is her lovely 12-month-old, very healthy daughter, Elsa, who is HIV negative. We can celebrate this moment because of the wonderful care Grace and Elsa are receiving at the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre.
Globally, an estimated 1.3 million women and girls living with HIV become pregnant each year. An HIV-positive mother can transmit HIV to her baby at any time during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. This is a deadly serious issue because without antiretroviral therapy, there is a 20 to 45 per cent risk of an HIV positive mother passing the infection on to their unborn child, and a 16 per cent chance of passing it on to their infant through breastfeeding.
Preventing Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV is one of the proactive measures that we take at the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre to transforms a life from one of probable illness to one with hope and a future. Since this program was introduced at Lifeline Malawi in 2008, when the Rosetree Maternity Unit was built, Lifeline Malawi has not had one vertical transmission of HIV from a positive mother to her baby.
What does this PMTCT program involve?
First, it is important for a mother to know her status. All pregnant mothers attending Lifeline Malawi prenatal clinics are tested for HIV. If they are positive, they start on the life-giving antiretroviral medicine. The sooner the mother starts the medicine, the better it is for her and her baby’s health.
These prescribed medicines continue throughout the pregnancy and during childbirth. The baby also is given antiretroviral medicine for the first 4 to 6 weeks of its life. Taking antiretrovirals will be a lifelong treatment for the mother.
After the birth, it is important for the moms and their babies to attend follow-up assessment clinics at LM. This is how I met Grace and Elsa as they are part of a Mother Infant Pairing (MIP). During these visits, the baby is tested for HIV at six, 12, and 24 months of age to check that the child status remains negative. At two years of age, and when the baby is weaned, the child is considered HIV negative and leaves the PMTCT program as another success story for Lifeline Malawi!
Thank you to all our donors who help support Lifeline Malawi in maintaining our facility, in training and paying our wonderful staff, and in giving a child like Elsa a really excellent start to a normal, healthy and happy life.
Written by Heather Brooks
Thank you for helping Lifeline Malawi to battle against a killer disease for women in Malawi. Shockingly, Malawi has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the World. In Malawi, cervical cancer accounts for 37% of all new female cancers each year, about 4,145 patients, and about 2,905 women will die. Two contributing risk factors for cervical cancer are HIV and HPV infections. HIV prevalence in the country is 10.6% of adults aged 15–64 years. There is no real data on what percentage of the populations harbours the cervical HPV infection.
Lifeline Malawi is saving lives by identifying this treatable disease before it becomes untreatable. One way we do this is by screening women for cervical cancer at the LM Health Centre, or at outreach screening clinics in the community. Every woman from the age 25 to 49 is to be screened at least every three years. And those at higher risk, will be tested every year. Due to a lack of information or incentive, patients need to be urged to participate and this can be a challenge. We usually see a rise in those seeking cervical screening when there is a death due to cervical cancer in the community.
Lifeline Malawi is also saving lives by providing the HPV vaccine at primary schools, targeting young girls who we assume are not yet sexually active. It is given to those 9 to 13 years old, nationwide. We have the biggest success giving the vaccine at schools where teachers are involved in educating both the girls and their families. Our challenge is the resistance within the community to vaccines, many believing that this vaccination is a contraceptive and will prevent girls from getting pregnant.
Sadly, many of the cervical cancer cases we see at Lifeline Malawi cannot be cured, About a quarter of LM’s palliative care patients have cervical cancer. The majority of the women have failed to come to the clinic in good time. Most of them come when the cancer has already spread.
Lukia Uzeni is one such patient. She lived with her daughter whose thirteen-year-old son was the bread winner for the family. He is a shepherd boy for cattle and does not attend school. Lifeline helped Lukia with food and the cost of a minibus to Salima and to Lifeline Malawi for treatment. When Steve Russell and Heather Brooks were in Malawi in November 2021, they went to visit Lukia with the Reach Out and Touch Team at her home, to comfort her by bringing her food, sharing a message of hope from the Word of God, and praying for her. We were sad the hear that she passed away in December 2021.
Please help us to prevent this disease from taking more lives, by donating to Lifeline Malawi. With your donation, you make it possible for us to employ more staff to be trained in screening, and to initiate education and testing campaigns and outreaches that will result in more women being tested. You will be helping, too, to support those with cervical cancer who need transportation funds, supplemental food, and you will allow LM to train more staff in palliative care. And of course, it also helps us with the visits of the Outreach -and Touch Team to show the love of Jesus to the patients and their families.
Agnes comes from the Ngodzi area and has worked with Lifeline Malawi since 2005. She is a widow and has a fifteen year old son who is a a boarding school, so that he will receive a good education. Agnes joined LM as a patient attendant, helping as a cleaner and as a patient attendant at the RoseTree Maternity Unit. Agnes proved herself to be a good learner, cleverly picking up computer and data recording skills. With training, she became a pharmacy assistant and recently became the data clerk in the LM Health Centre’s HIV clinic.
She likes working for LM because it helps her support her son’s education so he can go to university. She also appreciates having an income to help her sister and her family. Agnes says that LM is her husband, looking after her needs.
Gerson Zaithi is one of the smiling faces that our patients meet as they come to the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre. As a guard, he patrols the property at night, and greets people at the entrance gates on his day shifts. Gerson is outgoing and full of joy. He is the father of four children who are twelve, ten, seven, and one years old. He and his wife live very near the Health Centre, and he has worked for Lifeline Malawi since 2014. When asked what he appreciated about working for Lifeline Malawi, he said “that his problems are being solved because he has a job and is being paid, meeting his daily needs.” He also pointed out that he is thankful for the free medical care he and his family receive at Lifeline Malawi. “For if it had not been for Lifeline Malawi, I would have lost some of my family”.
When asked about what message he would give to our donors, he said “I will continue to pray for them, that God will bless the sources of their income, so I can continue working here, and helping my family”.
Thank you for your donation to Lifeline Malawi. Consider becoming a monthly donor and supporting Gerson who keeps us safe and warms our hearts with his smile. For $100.00 per month, you could be supporting Gerson and his family. Every donation goes a long way in Malawi toward making a difference.