Bringing healthcare, dignity and empowerment to people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) in Livingstone, Zambia
The town of Livingstone in the Southern Province of Zambia has the highest rate of HIV and AIDS related diseases in the country. In 1993, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa established St. Francis Community Integrated Care Programme in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Catholic Diocese of Livingstone. Since then, it has helped more than 11,750 HIV and AIDS patients in the district by providing support through counselling, health services and economic empowerment.
Annie Muleta, a beneficiary of the St. Francis Care Programme tells her story:
“In 2017, I became involved with the project first as a recipient, after being identified by a care support worker as being someone who could benefit from the services of the programme. I used to get medicine at the group clinics organised by St. Francis, and the medicine from St. Francis helped me manage opportunistic infections. I am fine now, my viral load is suppressed – it is undetectable and my CD4 count is 500+. I am doing well with adherence to medication and I also support others so that they can consistently take their anti-retroviral drugs.
I became a care supporter myself and now I coordinate the programme in the Libuyu area of Livingstone. As a care supporter, I want to encourage others who have lost hope after being tested positive. My parents have now accepted my situation and I am a happily married woman, I met Fred at the Centre and we married two years ago.
People come to me with their problems, for example parents may ask me to visit their son as he has defaulted on his medication. The main reason for lack of adherence is poor information and misinformation. We need good health education. The stigma has reduced in recent times – in the past they would look at me and say – she is going to die, but people’s plans are not God’s plans and I am positive about life.
I am also a member of St. Francis Savings and Internal Lending Community Group and it helps me provide food for the family; when I get money, I can buy charcoal that I resell in smaller amounts at a profit. I also grow vegetables in my garden to help the family and I am fortunate that my husband is working.
Orphans and vulnerable children have also been helped by the St. Francis Centre. We have children’s clubs and I help with these, every December we organise a big party for the children at St. Francis – some are HIV+, and when they interact socially they feel that they are loved. The clubs encourage adherence to medication, and improved nutrition. They also address issues such as child labour, gender-based violence, and children’s rights.
I am a Church of Christ member and I am happy with people knowing my status. I know my testimony will be helpful to others.”