The following story is an excerpt from Dignitas International’s 2015 Annual Report.
Martha Kanyika is from Chiladzulu District, part of the Southern region of Malawi. She tested positive for HIV in 2000, when she was still a teenager. Because she was not showing any signs of illness, Martha didn’t start HIV treatment until a life-changing event in 2011.
“I started on antiretroviral therapy (ART) after I became pregnant. It was to protect my child from contracting HIV,” she said.
Martha now has a healthy child who is HIV-free.
Martha also works at Zomba Central Hospital as an Expert Client, a Dignitas International medical program that trains HIV+ people in administrative and peer-support roles. Expert Clients not only free-up medical staff to provide needed care, but also offer newly diagnosed HIV patients with much needed encouragement and advice. By the end of 2015, the program expanded to cover 80 health facilities in Malawi with 210 Expert Clients.
“I used to go to Matawale Health Centre in Zomba for my ART. I was inspired how Expert Clients treated HIV+ patients, and how they openly disclosed their status. I wanted to be like them,” she explained.
Martha disclosed how becoming an Expert Client has changed her life:
“It was like staring a new chapter in life. Even though I used to advise people about health issues, I was not officially trained. Now I know a lot of critical issues concerning HIV, TB and Non-Communicable Diseases. I feel good when I am counselling people because I believe in what I do, and I believe in myself.”
Expert Clients helped close to 52,000 patients gain more information on everything from the importance of HIV testing and treatment adherence to enhancing nutrition and meal management throughout 2015. Martha has a passion for health and helping the most vulnerable:
“I am happy that I’ve reached a lot of HIV+ patients who were afraid and lived in denial because of stigma and discrimination. A lot of the patients follow our advice – particularly when they realize that we have also gone through the same challenges.”
To hear more stories from people that benefit from our work, please see our 2015 Annual Report.