|Malawi: Chiefs Fueling Aids Stigma in Karonga - People Living With HIV 'Dead Already'
by Tiwonge Kumwenda
February 9, 2016
An appalling situation has rocked people living with HIV/AIDS in the lakeshore district of Karonga with chiefs denying them access to development projects from government such as public works as well as the Farm Income Subsidy Programme (FISP).
People living positively sounded the SOS last Friday during an interface meeting organized by the Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS) at Lupembe and Iponga in the district, arguing the behavior of the chiefs was impacting negatively on their lives.
Hariri Mwamatandala, chairperson of Iponga HIV/AIDS Support Group, revealed that he now "regrets coming into the open about my HIV status."
He said: "We're not benefitting from the MASAF 4 programme because of our status. The same with FISP. None of us has received."
Flora Namani of Chisowolo Support Group of Lupembe said it was painful that two members of their group had died in 2015 because of stigma.
"On top of that chiefs are denying us a place to hold our meetings so that we can woe fellow HIV positive colleagues to join us. They say we're dead already and that we will teach people bad behavior," said Namani.
Group Village Headman Mwenelupembe admitted the existence of the tendency but was quick to say that it was only "happening in a few areas."
Mwenelupembe said he has on several occasions "several complaints on these issues." He was sure that the "situation has changed since we called the concerned chiefs to discipline them."
FOCUS monitoring and evaluation officer Vincent Ngwira admitted the situation was "worrisome."
Ngwira added that it was unfortunate that chiefs who are supposed to be in the forefront supporting those living with HIV, were fueling stigma.
Stigma continues to rage on in most of the country's communities despite President Peter Mutharika's insistence that his government will have eliminated the same by 2030.
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