Leading by Example: Expert Clients Participate in the ‘Know Your Child’s Status’ Campaign
Isabel Garcia, Communications & Advocacy Officer, EGPAF-Malawi
Loness Kadaya and Victoria Bliati are HIV-positive. They both volunteer at Ntcheu District Hospital, located in the Central Region of Malawi, as Expert Clients, a position at health facilities designed for openly HIV-positive leaders in the community.
When explaining what her position entails, Loness answers, “As Expert Clients our main task is to follow-up and encourage fellow clients to make sure they are retained on care.”
She motions to her own daughter, sitting nearby, and continues, “We encourage them to bring their children for testing and help get them initiated on antiretroviral treatment (ART) if they test positive for HIV.”
Today the ladies are working at Ntcheu District Hospital’s final ‘Know Your Child’s Status’ (KYCS) event. In an effort to double the number of children on treatment, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), with funding from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) through the Accelerated Children’s HIV Treatment (ACT) Initiative, has provided technical and financial support to conduct 10 pediatric HIV testing events at Ntcheu District Hospital.
The goal of KYCS is to ensure that all children of HIV-positive parents know their status, and that, by the end of the 10-month campaign, every client’s child is tested.
At the event, any child that tested positive immediately met with a clinician and was initiated on treatment.
Loness and Victoria’s responsibility at the KYCS event is to meet families of any child who has tested positive for HIV and to offer their support.
They get to know the family, learn where they live, and in the event that the child or a family member stops treatment, they work with the facility to bring them back to care.
Today, however, volunteering at the event is not the only reason Loness and Victoria made the trip to Ntcheu District Hospital. The women are getting their daughters tested for HIV. Loness and Victoria are both exemplary Expert Clients. They have openly disclosed their statuses and work daily with HIV-positive members of their community. Yet, until today they had not had all of their own children tested for HIV.
Loness admits that as an Expert Client she knows the importance of testing the families of people living with HIV, but it has proven to be a challenge. Issues of public transportation fees often limit families, and one benefit of KYCS is that families are reimbursed for their travel to the facility.
She shares, “We recently managed to get all our children tested except these ones, so we also wanted them tested so we can know their status and decide how best to look after them. We took the opportunity of the Know Your Child’s Status activity to get them tested since we knew we would get a transport reimbursement for one child. We traveled from far, hence it has been difficult to get them here for testing.”
Both daughters, Vecita and Sarah, test negative for HIV that day. Both mothers share their experiences with members of their community daily and urge others to get tested for HIV.
Five of the 250 children tested for HIV at Ntcheu District Hospital that day tested positive.
All five children were started on treatment and asked to return to the hospital a month later to check their progress and refill their prescriptions.
Their parents will need support and motivation to ensure that they adhere to their regimen. That is where Expert Clients like Loness and Victoria come in. By having their children tested at the KYCS campaign, both mothers now lead by example. They showed their community that they were prioritizing their children’s lives, a lesson they will dedicate themselves to as they continue to serve their communities as Expert Clients.