Amon is accompanying his wife, Mwenzi, to the maternal health clinic for their youngest daughter’s medical check up. Male involvement in maternal, child and HIV matters is rare in Zambia but thanks to a UK aid project implemented by Alliance Zambia and a range of community organisations, concerted work is being done to encourage men to become involved in order to help prevent HIV transmission to babies and stop unnecessary deaths.
Zambia has a very high maternal mortality rate and best estimates suggest only 43% of pregnant women give birth in the presence of a skilled birth attendant. HIV prevalence is estimated at 13.5% compared to 0.01% in the UK. The chances of women passing HIV onto their unborn child is therefore very high.
For many women attending maternal health and HIV services is impossible if their husbands or male partners do not agree, or provide the money for travel and health fees. Often this is down to a lack of information and therefore understanding of maternal, child and HIV healthcare issues. This is being addressed by male only community discussions and dialogues, such as those that Bwafwano hold weekly as a result of the UK aid project.
Beatrice Chola is Executive Director of Bwafwano. “The project has done very, very good work in the community and we have seen hundreds come along to find out more about maternal, newborn and child health. The thing that has surprised me most is the level of uptake and engagement of male involvement. It is really amazing.”
"Bwafwano care about us"
Amon is HIV positive and was diagnosed when he was ill with TB. He has two daughters Violet, 5 years and Taonga, 3 years. He explains why he accompanies Mwenzi to the maternal health clinic.
“I always go with Mwenzi to the clinic. I learned a lot about children and pregnancy. Women don’t have to die with their pregnancy at home. If we want another baby we have to go to the clinic and they will tell us what to do so we can have an HIV negative baby.
“I was with Mwenzi when I learned I was HIV positive. We did the test together. Bwafwano gives me good support. They care about us.” Mwenzi and both daughters are HIV negative.
Enthric Siamalambo is one of Bwfwano’s Community Health Workers. She is supporting the Banda family, walking the many miles to reach them in their village, two or three times a month.
“We can come when there is a need. We talk about how they are doing, what they need and what should be changed and then I can identify how to help them. I can provide counselling and help on treatment adherence as well as provide condoms.”
While Amon and his family are very poor they have found good healthcare support and understand how to keep their family healthy and free of HIV thanks to the work of Bwafwano, Alliance Zambia and the support of UK aid.