Dignitas International encourages greater involvement of people living with HIV in the delivery of health care. This is the underlying principle behind our Expert Client program.
An Expert Client is a person who is HIV+ and has openly declared their status. The most important role of an Expert Client is to inspire others to seek testing and treatment. As living proof that treatment works, Expert Clients also 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.
Mulalika and Grena Chipala have been married for four years and have three children. Grena first learned about her HIV status during an antenatal clinic visit during her second pregnancy in 2012. She was advised to come back to the clinic with her husband.
At the subsequent clinic visit, they both took an HIV test and her husband also tested positive. The couple immediately started antiretroviral therapy. For their ongoing medical check-ups, they go to Nkhwayi Health Centre, located about 15 km from their home in Phalombe District, Malawi.
But after a few months, the couple stopped coming to the clinic for ART.
“We did not see the need back then. We thought we were already dying. And the health facility is situated very far from here.” said Mulalika.
Goodboy Mbwana, an Expert Client, was able to track down the couple in 2013. By then the couple was very ill and malnourished. Despite this, they refused to resume care even after Mulalika’s sister tried to reason with them.
“We are so glad that Goodboy persisted until we resumed treatment,” said Mulalika.
The couple now understands the importance of treatment adherence especially with regard to preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Goodboy says the couple now comes in regularly for drug refills and other services. Thankfully, their second and third child remain HIV-free.
Expert Clients help fill critical gaps in Malawi’s health system. Your support means couples like Mulalika and Grena Chipala can live healthy and productive for years to come.