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Umunthu Foundation - AVERT's Partner in Malawi
The Umunthu Foundation
Umunthu Foundation has been AVERT's partner in Malawi since 2010.
Where is the Umunthu Foundation?
Umunthu is a community-based organisation working in the townships of Bangwe and Limbe, in Malawi’s second city, Blantyre. Umunthu provides voluntary HIV counselling and testing (VCT) in three centres across the two districts.
What is Umunthu's aim and vision?
In the Blantyre region of Malawi, HIV and AIDS have had a devastating impact on the community. Young people are particularly at risk of HIV infection and women are vulnerable due to gender inequalities, high levels of gender-based violence and their inability to negotiate condom use.
Coverage of voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services is limited, meaning people often access antiretroviral treatment (ART) late or not at all, and do not receive the necessary psychosocial support.
Umunthu aims to fill these gaps by providing services that enable people to know their HIV status and receive the necessary referrals and support; improve the quality of life of people living with HIV and the wider community; and improve knowledge of HIV and AIDS and gender issues.
The project is based on the philosophy that community-led initiatives are an effective way of addressing the social challenges of HIV and AIDS in a sustainble way at community level. Run by local staff and volunteers, Umunthu works closely with the local community to ensure they are responding to their needs.
How do Umunthu's activities benefit the community?
In order to fulfil Umunthu's primary aim of reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS in the region, there are a number of activities they undertake.
Testing for HIV
Umunthu provide CD4 count testing for people who test HIV-positive, and pregnant women are referred to prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services. VCT services also provide psychosocial support, and basic treatment for opportunistic infections.
CD4 count testing
In 2014, AVERT ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to buy a CD4 count testing machine for Umunthu's main office. People can now have their CD4 count tested at the same clinic where they received their HIV-positive diagnosis. The test determines if and when they need to start antiretroviral treatment. Umunthu is now also able to provide treatment in collaboration with the national department of health.
Previously, people who tested positive had to travel the long distance to the regional hospital to get access to a CD4 count test and treatment. Umunthu now provides a ‘one-stop’ healthcare service for the community.
Umunthu promotes behaviour change and works to break down stigma and myths around HIV in the community, through innovative HIV prevention and awareness-raising activities, such as radio debates, drama and song.
At Umunthu’s offices, support groups for people living with HIV and home-based carers meet regularly to share experiences and knowledge, and receive training. The organisation has also initiated community dialogue with both men and women to reduce incidents of gender-based violence (GBV), making the links between violence and HIV clearer. Umunthu also provides referrals to legal services for victims of GBV.
Anti-AIDS youth groups
The project has a specific focus on young people in the community and runs various anti-AIDS youth groups both in and out of schools to provide young people with a platform to talk about HIV and sexual health. Umunthu’s offices also house an open-access information library on HIV and AIDS, nutrition, antiretroviral treatment and adherence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the rights of people living with HIV.
Revolving loan fund
In 2013, a revolving loan fund was started up at Umunthu Foundation to improve the livelihoods of people living with HIV in the local community. The fund enables people to set up small income generation activities. It will also help people living with HIV achieve food security, improve their general health, and provide greater support to their families.
Hear from Umunthu
David is the Director of Umunthu Foundation, and he contributed an article entitled ' Resources for a rights based approach to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic' for AVERT's guest writer feature 'Reflections on the Epidemic'.
We asked two young people from Umunthu's Post-Test Club how technology improves access to HIV and AIDS information and awareness of development challenges.
On International Women's Day, Joyce from the Umunthu Foundation was interviewed by AVERT about what it means to be a part of the Umunthu Foundation's 'Home-based Carers’ support group.
Mercy is a young person involved in the Umunthu project. She wrote a short article entitled ' Narrow escape' for the 'Reflections on the Epidemic' series.
Help us do more
None of this work would be possible without your support. If you would like to support the Umunthu Foundation, please donate to AVERT or visit our fundraising page for ideas of how to support us. Thank you!
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