On Monday, I got another chance to visit a health center just outside of Lilongwe to observe what’s happening on the ground in Malawi. We were joined by Joyce Kamwana (who you may recall from this very blog just a couple months ago) and some other health center staff, and together we toured the facilities and supplies which are in part provided by the Global Fund.
The center itself is divided into different sections to treat HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and so forth. The cohesiveness between the wards is apparent. For example, given the high correlation between HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, patients who are diagnosed with TB are also tested for HIV and vice-versa. Just as I saw in Neno, the staff is incredibly competent, capable, and determined to bring good health to the communities they work in.
The staff also flagged some positive trends they’ve noticed. More and more, perfectly healthy couples are being screened for HIV instead of first falling ill and then being tested. This was cited as evidence of the eroding stigma around being tested for HIV, and the growing perception that simply being tested isn’t a death sentence. (The diminishing stigma around HIV/AIDS was noted by several Malawians I met this week, in fact.) And more couples are being tested together– there were 36 in October.
But that isn’t to say there aren’t challenges facing the Mitundu Health Centre. An X-ray machine that broke 4 years ago has yet to be repaired due to a lack of resources. And worse, hospital staff is seriously concerned about having enough anti-malarial medication in stock as they approach peak transmission months. Given past trends, the doctors, nurses, and technicians I spoke with estimated they had about 2 months’ worth of medication in stock when they’ll need 4-5 months’ worth to adequately treat their patients during the peak transmission months.