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05/07/2010

Sunday Times (Malawi)
Italian bank boosts Balaka Aids project

The fight against HIV/ADS needs to be multisectoral, involving a combination of prevention, treatment and care and mitigation


by Watipaso Mzungu Jnr

AT WORK —Mtambitsa (right) is enjoying good health today


When Project Malawi opened its drug resource enhancement against Aids and Malnutrition (Dream) Clinic last year, people in Balaka received it with open arms.

Hundreds of people went for HIV tests, and those found positive were recommended to start receiving free Aids drugs.

Project Malawi Country Director Claudio Tonin says Project Malawi has been injected with a K30 million funding from a leading Italian bank, Intesa San Paolo, which will enable them to reach out to many people seeking HIV and Aids services.

Implementing partners of the project are : International Committee for the Development of People (CISP), Community of Saint' Egidio (Dream Program), Malawi Girl Guides Association (MAGGA), SAVE the Children and Office of President and Cabinet through its Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS.

Project Malawi seeks to "economically empower vulnerable communities and individual entrepreneurs" in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Balaka Districts "to become self-reliant in a sustainable way as a means of mitigating the impacts of HIV and AIDS," says Tonin.

"The fight against HIV/AIDS needs to he multi-sectoral, involving a combination of prevention, treatment and care and mitigation;' says the Project Malawi boss.

One of the beneficiaries of this project is McRay Mtambitsa of T.A. Nsanwla in Balaka.

When he tested HIV positive over six years ago, Mtamhitsa had no source of money, let alone someone who could provide him care.
When he was introduced to a Dream Clinic in Balaka. Mtambitsa was thin and had lost hope of survival.

"It's by the grace of God through Dream Program that I still survive." said Mtambitsa when the clinic was officially opening. He started receiving food supplements from the project and he is on ARVs.

But the project has two big challenges: how to reach out to hundreds of people seeking ARVs and sustain the programme to give people living with Aids nutritous food.

The Dream Centres, every month give each patient 8kg of rice and corn flour, two litres of cooking oil, 5kg of peanut 'lour. 4kg of beans and one kg of sugar, says Francisco Zuze. Projects Manager for Dream Program.

"We've realized that medication alone is not enough. This is why we also provide them with food supplements because most of our clients cannot easily find nutritious food since they're not working;' Zuze explains.

This could explain why Mtambitsa is enjoying good health today. Apart from enjoying good health, he is running a carpentry shop at Balaka Market with technical skills he learnt from C1SP.

According to Tonin, the first phase of the project finished in 2008 and on the second phase (from 2008 to 2011) it has funded about 15 million Euros(over K3.2billion) to the 5 partners.

All the five partners are expected to implement the project in close partnership and with more synergies. For the years it has been operating.
Project Malawi has become a successful. groundbreaking model for develop-ment cooperation/aid in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Malawi.

Principal Secretary for Nutrition. HIV and Aids. Dr. Mary Shawa said the partnership was influential in the reduction of the prevalence rate.
"I should state here that Dream Program is doing a commendable job in the fight against HIV/Aids and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). But all this boils down to the fact that we're working in partnership. I don't think we could have realized this success if we worked individually." said Shawa.