Because of You 2017 Impact Report

Your support is changing lives and improving access to health care in underserved communities – THANK YOU!

Dignitas is putting your donations to work to tackle global health challenges and build resilient and healthy communities. Your support helps us to achieve results and advance the right to health for all.

Thank you for helping to create ripples of impact and transform the lives of families from Zomba, Malawi to Sioux Lookout, Ontario and beyond.

Together, we are delivering care and treatment where it’s needed most. We are proud to share stories of the results achieved and lives changed… because of you.

Because of You 2017 Impact Report

“To Dignitas International and those that support them, I just say thank you, you have saved the life of my baby, and I urge you to continue saving lives.”

– Mary, 24, accessed Dignitas’ HIV testing services and started treatment right away. Today, she is proudly raising an HIV-negative daughter, Renny (pictured), who dreams of becoming a doctor.

Mary lost her mother at age five and was raised by her grandmother. Deteriorating health prompted Mary’s grandmother to take her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Even after treatment, Mary didn’t get better and she was tested for HIV in 2006. Mary was diagnosed HIV-positive and encouraged to start immediate treatment. Adhering to her medication was challenging and she struggled to accept her status. However, a nurse at Zomba Central Hospital saw Mary’s struggle and referred her to Dignitas’ Teen Club where she found a safe space for HIV-positive teens to make friends and receive psycho-social support.

“That is how my life story changed, I started living positively. At first I thought I would never give birth because I was HIV positive. But Dignitas International through Teen Club opened by eyes and discovered that I can give birth to a healthy child.” In 2011, Mary was married and gave birth to her daughter, Renny. Over the last several years, Mary has accessed treatment and care at a Dignitas-supported health care facility. Having care and treatment available in her community has made a lifesaving difference.

Mary’s journey and the healthy birth of her daughter Renny is a testament to the power that quality health care can have for a family. In 2017, Mary is healthy and strong and looks forward to a bright future for her family. Renny wants to become a doctor and Mary will help her to achieve that dream.

As Dignitas works towards reaching the UN’s ambitious 90-90-90 goals in Malawi by 2020, we continue to ‘test and treat.’ This will help us to reach the first ‘90’ where 90% of people living with HIV know their status. To achieve this goal, we’ve put your donations to work to go out into the community to provide testing services to key populations who have a higher risk of HIV. These excluded groups are denied their right to health. They are harder to reach, but we are seeing results across many fronts including in Zomba State Prison where Dignitas provides HIV testing to incarcerated men and has succeeded in starting all HIV+ prisoners onto lifesaving care.

Our achievements don’t stop there. We know that testing mothers through our Option B+ program and starting HIV+ pregnant women is an effective way to keep moms and babies healthy. By suppressing an HIV+ mother’s viral load, Option B+ helps mothers remain healthy and prevents transmission to her baby before and during birth and while breastfeeding. Our research shows that with access to lifesaving medication, the rate of HIV infection in babies born to HIV-positive mothers drops from 21.4% to 1.4%. This ensures that babies are born HIV-free, the critical first step towards an AIDS-free generation.

“To those that support this initiative, I thank you so much. Please continue the good work. People hear messages, but it carries more value when it’s face to face. I urge Dignitas International to recruit more Expert Clients so that more lives are saved.”
– Mercy, 32, says an Expert Client saved her life

Mercy heard messages on the radio that encouraged people to go for HIV testing, but to her, the stigma associated with the disease prevented her from going. Although she was reluctant to go for HIV testing, Mercy was not in good health. Her family and friends were growing concerned. One day, an Expert Client from Dignitas named Grace came to Mercy’s community and noticed that Mercy needed medical attention. At first, Mercy was reluctant to accept Grace’s advice that she should get tested for HIV but after much encouragement she was tested at a local health facility. Mercy tested positive for HIV but did not struggle to stay on treatment as many HIV-positive people do because she had a secret weapon – Grace who stood by her side.

“Before I met Grace, I was very weak, I could not fend for my children. It was difficult for me to do my small business and go to the garden, but now I am able to do all that. I could have been dead by now. But she saved my life. To me, she is more than a sister”

Expert Clients are making an important impact in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Malawi. Grace was a role model and valuable support for Mercy and helped her to start lifesaving treatment and care.

Once someone is tested for HIV, it is important that they access and stay on treatment to protect their own health and reduce the risk of transmission. However, stigma, long distance to medical facilities and poverty are just a few of the barriers to accessing care that we see in Malawi everyday. A gift to Dignitas helps us to tackle these barriers and develop the tools we need to ensure care is available where it is needed most. We’ve recruited an incredible team of Expert Clients are taking the lead in ensuring those who need care are accessing it.

Expert Clients are local community members who are HIV+ and have openly declared their status. They are inspirational role models who encourage others to seek testing and treatment. Every Expect Client serves as living proof that treatment works and provide essential peer-based support to patients who have just begun HIV treatment. Expert Clients also assist with tasks like measuring vital signs, recording weights in patient’s health passports, filing patient records and tracing patients who have stopped taking their HIV medications. They provide a vital service of alleviating the workload of nurses and clinicians, so they can focus on providing lifesaving treatment and care. With the help of Expert Clients, we are seeing improved retention in care among vulnerable groups.

“We have seen people that were hopeless and now they are living positively. Others came after developing AIDS and they have been assisted. We want to thank Dignitas International and its supporters for the role they are playing in people’s lives. Their money has done a lot in saving lives in Zomba and beyond.”
Nurse Ida, 43, received ART training to serve her clients better

Ida is a nurse at the Tisungance Clinic at Zomba Central Hospital. She recently attended a Dignitas-organized training to gain more knowledge on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). With staff shortages in local health facilities, nurses like Ida are challenged to provide quality health care to their clients. This training will enable her meet patient needs. The four medical personnel at her clinic see about 150 patients per day – that’s a lot of pressure on the staff to make sure that patients are well taken care of and referred to all of the services they need.

For more than 20 years, Community Health Worker (CHW) Sarah has been serving Kingfisher Lake First Nation, an Oji-Cree community of 500 located 350 kilometers north of Sioux Lookout. Over the years Sarah has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people with diabetes in the community. The disease is also affecting younger people. Sarah herself was diagnosed with diabetes in July of 2015. In March, Sarah and her CHW colleagues in Sioux Lookout came together for a knowledge translation and exchange workshop in Lac Seul First Nation. The training included some introductory diabetes learning and focused largely on interactive patient care. Sarah and other CHWs were equipped with training kits that included blood pressure monitors, glucometers and other supplies to put their new skills into practice.

Malawi has one doctor for every 53,000 people compared to Canada which has one doctor for approximately every 500 people. The severe shortage of health workers puts great demands on an under-resourced health system. With your support, Dignitas is is training and mentoring health workers to effectively deliver health services to both adults and children for HIV, TB, diabetes and other diseases. We’ve partnered with the Malawi Ministry of Health to build the capacity of the health system by providing training and mentorship to health personnel at all levels, building the experience, expertise and confidence of everyone from nurses and clinicians to health system managers and supervisors. We are building the capacity of clinicians, nurses and community health workers to safely and effectively perform tasks that would normally be performed by physicians, thereby reducing bottlenecks in access to treatment and care.

Since its inception in 2004, more than 23,000 patients have started lifesaving HIV treatment at Dignitas’ Tisungane clinic. In addition, Dignitas strengthens HIV-related services at 174 health facilities throughout Malawi’s southeast region, which has a population of more than 3.1 million people. As a result, we have helped more than 301,652 people start lifesaving HIV treatment.


In 2014, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) and Dignitas International (DI) launched a partnership to support First Nations-led health care solutions for people living in remote Sioux Lookout Area (SLA) communities. Drawing upon the complementary experience and knowledge of both organizations, SLFNHA and DI jointly designed and are currently implementing a community health worker pilot program in four communities in the SLA. By building the skills and knowledge of local health workers, your support helped to improved health care delivery and contributed to sustainable strengthening of the local health system

Our Indigenous Health Partners Program strengthens community-based diabetes care in remote communities that experience exceedingly high rates of type 2 diabetes and high turnover of fly-in health professionals. By training and empowering CHWs to play an active role in patient care, community members living with type 2 diabetes will experience better continuity of care and targeted support to manage their condition and prevent the most traumatic diabetes complications, including hypertension, amputations, kidney failure, heart attacks and stroke.



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