Commemorating World AIDS Day Throughout the Country in Mozambique
December 10, 2010
Mozambique is a large country located on Africa’s eastern coast, with vast distances from north to south. But despite the logistical challenges of coordinating activities from one end of the country to the other, we felt it was important for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day throughout the provinces where we work.
In the capital city of Maputo, EGPAF staff participated in numerous activities organized by the National Council to Combat HIV/AIDS, including a march attended by local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), associations, and government representatives. The groups marched for many kilometers, ending up in Hulene Stadium. There several organizations working on different aspects of HIV/AIDS set up tents to share information about their work, and more importantly, to offer voluntary HIV counseling and testing services.
A large crowd gathered to hear the city governor,
Dr. Lucilia Hama, speak.
The guest of honor was the city governor, Dr. Lucília Hama, who spoke about the importance of prevention of HIV, using condoms, and taking an HIV test to know one’s status. During the ceremonies, there were also testimonials from two women living with HIV who volunteered for local AIDS associations. Hearing them speak was one of the most touching moments for EGPAF staff. The energy and positivity of the women was evident, and they showed the assembled crowd that it is possible to live a healthy life with HIV.
After returning to our office in Maputo, we reflected on our own progress in Mozambique since 2004: the number of health sites EGPAF now supports, the number of pregnant women and children tested for HIV, and the increased number of those tests that are coming back negative.
It reinforced the fact that it is possible to create a generation free of HIV, both here in Mozambique and around the world. In Maputo, we even indulged our creative sides, picking up paint brushes to put some of these thoughts and messages of hope onto canvas. At the end of the day, we found out that we have some good painters in the office.
There were similar activities to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS going on in provinces throughout the country.
In Nampula province, the commemorations were in the Meconta district, in the city of Namialo. EGPAF staff also participated in a march there, attended by representatives from the government, NGOs, and many people from the community, including HIV patients. The guest of honor was the permanent secretary of the province, who talked about the province’s progress fighting HIV/ AIDS, and appealed to the population to adhere to their HIV treatment. Adherence to antiretroviral drugs is vital to staying healthy and preventing the spread of the virus.
In Maputo province, the main commemorations were in Xinavane, in the Manhiça district, and in Munguine and in Boane. The EGPAF staff had to work extra hard to be present in all these places at the same time.
In Xinavane, EGPAF had a tent with a photo exhibition reflecting our work, and had two health officials doing HIV counseling and testing. They tested 46 people. In Munguine district, we counseled and tested 59 people. Every single test helps, as more people know their status, and are counseled how to protect their own health and that of their loved ones.
Staff meet with children and families affected by HIV at a
hospital in Gaza province.
In Gaza province, the EGPAF team went to the Chibuto district to visit the Ntwanano Association. It’s a group fighting HIV/AIDS in Mozambique that EGPAF has supported since 2006. With the children from the association and some representatives from the provincial government, EGPAF staff visited a rural hospital in Chibuto. There the children visited other children living with HIV who were hospitalized, with the aim of bringing some happiness and support to them on this important day.
It was an especially happy moment to see the smiles of those children, and it gave all the EGPAF staff who attended more strength and inspiration to continue our work to bring hope to children and families living with the effects of HIV.
For EGPAF in Mozambique, World AIDS Day 2010 was full of energy and adrenaline, and most of all, full of hope. We reached out to communities throughout the country on that day to educate about HIV, and to continue our work to achieve a generation free of HIV.
Denise Alvez is a Communications Officer with the Foundation, based in Maputo, Mozambique.