“'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.
One of my favourite things to do when I am in Malawi is to visit one of Lifeline Malawi’s many Support Groups for People Living with AIDS (PLHIA). All members are HIV positive and are on anti-retroviral therapy. The groups are located throughout the district. They support each other by reminding the members to take care of their health and stay on their medicines. They will follow-up with a fellow member if that person defaults from the program. They also help to mobilize interest on the issues surrounding HIV, through discussion with local chiefs, and by demonstrating that there is life for People Living with AIDS. There are still many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS in Malawi. Outreach sessions by the group provide correct information to educate community members accurately.
We visited the most active of all the LM support groups on this trip into the community. We met in an open field, under a baobab tree. Very fitting for Lifeline Malawi! This group had been chosen as a test case for an economic empowerment project. The group had received a plot of land, given by a local chief. Nelson Chinchembere, the LM’s HIV Testing and Counselling Supervisor, along with Steve Russell and myself, arrived bearing gifts of maize and soya seed for planting. What followed under the shade of the huge baobab, were speeches, singing, refreshments, and the smiles of people with grateful hearts. One of our messages during our speeches this day, was to remind the women to get tested for cervical cancer at the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre.
This visit happened at the end of November, and last week, I was excited to receive photos of the growing crops. Nelson, who took the phots, visited the group bringing them fertilizer this time. Due to the over working of the limited available land for farming in Malawi, fertilizer is a necessity. However, the average person cannot afford such an expensive item. The donated fertilizer will guarantee abundant yields of their crops.
This is one of the many ways that Lifeline Malawi is working to change people’s lives. When you donate to Lifeline Malawi you become a blessing to people living with HIV and, in this case, to help them to be successful in Lifeline Malawi’s first economic empowerment project. Thank you for your support!
Across the world, December 1, 2021 marks World HIV & AIDS Awareness. Lifeline Malawi Medical Centre, with your help, brings much needed educations, medication and palliative care to those suffering in Malawi from the effects of HIV. Approximately one thousand and nine hundred patients received antiretroviral medication from Lifeline Malawi Medical Centre and fifty percent of the patients that are on Palliative Care program at Lifeline Malawi Medical Centre are people living with HIV and AIDS.
In Malawi, 1,100,000 people are currently living with HIV while Sub-Saharan Africa has the world's highest AIDS & HIV rates at a total of 5% or approximately 23 500 000 people living with it.
So, what is HIV and why do we talk about HIV and AIDS differently?
Ultimately, HIV (or Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system and AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) is a term that can only be used when HIV has caused severe damage to the immune system. HIV is the virus, AIDS is the diagnosis.
AIDS remains a threatening illness that has eroded and affected many lives. HIV targets and gradually weakens the body's immune system by damaging cells called CD4 T cells. This damage means that, over time, the body becomes less able to fight off other infections. If the immune system becomes impaired enough, infections that are typically mild can be life threatening.
What can I do to help and prevent the spread?
Get tested! If someone you know has AIDS, getting tested for HIV is a great preventative and knowledge step towards protecting your own health and the health of those around you.
You can use strategies such as abstinence (not having sex), never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex. Discussing with your potential partner and taking advantage of HIV prevention medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help slow the rate at which HIV multiplies in the body, reduce symptoms and possibilities of spreading.
How can I help?
Lifeline Malawi has an HIV and AIDS program that worked with approximately 5000 patients by testing, educating, and providing medication to locals suffering from AIDS. By contributing to Lifeline Malawi, you are helping to pay for medications, nurse salaries, doctors and necessary medical equipment that contributes to the great work at Lifeline Malawi. Make a donation today by using the "Make a Donation" button at the top right corner of the screen.
Recently we identified the cause of paralysis of a young male who was sick for more than 3 months.
What was the problem?
He was diagnosed with Neurosyphilis and an HIV infection (to find out more about AIDS and HIV, click here).
What is Neurosyphilis?
Neurosyphilis is a disease of the coverings of the brain, the brain itself, or the spinal cord. It can occur in people with syphilis, especially if they are left untreated.
Depending on the form of neurosyphilis, symptoms may include any of the following:
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Symptoms include various types of mental deterioration, vision loss, speech disturbances, ataxia (inability to coordinate movements), paralysis, brain lesions, and, ultimately, coma. Some individuals may also have compromised memory and cognition, and seizures may occur.
These two complicated viruses combined can make for a complicated and confusing diagnoses, most rural health facilities miss this syphilis that affects the brain, luckily, we were able to use the knowledge taught at Lifeline Malawi to refer the patient to a treatment centre in Salima where they have a treatment plan for patients like this.
How can I help?
We know you love to hear updates about the patients and we wanted to thank you for all of your generous donations in the past. We want to continue to share stories like this one and so many more good news items. Please help us by click the "Make A Donation" button at the top of your screen. We truly appreciate your time and effort towards Lifeline Malawi.