More than a support group, a support community

Posted on 05/10/10



Dancing and singing at a patient meeting.


In many of the communities that PIH serves, HIV/AIDS patients must carry the physical burden of the disease as well as the psychosocial burden of stigma.

PIH’s partner organization in Malawi, APZU, is working to combat this stigma and create a supportive space for patients living with the disease. Each month, APZU helps organize a patient meeting, which brings hundreds of patients together to laugh, sing, dance, support each other, and learn from each other about coping with the daily challenges and issues caused by living with HIV. Moreover, they leave with a sense that they are not fighting the disease alone, but as a community.

"These meetings are a place where people living with HIV/AIDS in Neno District can meet to organize, strategize and discuss about alternative ways to address their disease and poverty," said Dr. Paul Pierre, APZU Director of Community Programs.

The meetings are organized and run by a committee of patients elected by their peers, and  focus on inspiring and positive messages. Regular features of these meetings include information about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, and methods for preventing the spread of the disease, as well as local dance crews, musicians, and comedians. At a meeting last month, over 400 patients attended.

Watch a footage from a recent patient meeting on the player below:

"The Neno Community Support Initiative for Patient Living with HIV/AIDS (NCSI-PLWHA), now a vibrant organization with more than 15 affiliated support groups, was born from these meetings," added Paul.  "Also, APZU’s new orientation to support subsistence farmers through fertilizer distribution and permaculture trainings was motivated in great part by discussions with the NCSI-PLWHA executive committee."