Mulanje is a remote rural district in Malawi consisting of 673,000 people greatly affected by extreme poverty and inadequate health infrastructure. The region’s under-resourced healthcare facilities struggle to meet high demands for care. ETAF has been funding quality village-based health services delivered by our implementing partner, the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA), since 2008 through a system of 5 mobile health clinics providing basic health services in areas of need selected by the government District Health Office. Last September, we treated the mobile clinic program’s one millionth patient visit.
Designed to de-stigmatize HIV testing and treatment, the GAIA Elizabeth Taylor mobile clinics integrate HIV services into an array of primary care services, allowing GAIA’s medical teams to test and treat for a variety of serious, and often deadly, illnesses. Provision of basic health services reduces the stigma associated with seeking HIV Testing and Counseling (HTC) and supports our primary mission of HIV testing and treatment.
Despite the mobile clinic program’s success reaching women with HTC, statistics were showing that men in Mulanje were being left behind. By 2012, we realized that our mobile healthcare clinics were testing only 1 man for every 5 women. In Malawi, as in many other countries, data show that men often access HIV testing at far lower rates than do women. As a result, men living with HIV often enter care with more advanced disease, are less likely to receive lifesaving antiretroviral therapy, miss opportunities to prevent ongoing transmission, and have higher AIDS-related mortality than their female counterparts. As elsewhere, prevailing cultural norms around masculinity in Malawi, as well as weekday work schedules, can act as additional barriers to men accessing HIV services.
Recognizing that reaching men is critical in our response to achieve UNAIDS 90-90-90 plan, we began funding more innovative programming that has since reduced that ratio from 1:5 to 1:1.6. This programming has included weekend testing events at male-centric locations in Mulanje, such as places of work and other locations where men typically gather. These weekend testing events have increased the number of men tested by 92%. Watch this story on Times Television that dives into this program and hear directly from the community Elizabeth Taylor began supporting nearly a decade ago.