Bringing health care to remote villages

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ONE member Kim Dixon Perez recounts her experience traveling with a mobile HIV-testing clinic with the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance in Malawi.


A women’s finger is pricked for the HIV test

Five-year-old Charles was warming himself by the fire when his shirt caught the flames and most of his back was burned. His mother had to carry him -– on foot -– four miles for help.

Charles’ family lives in a remote village in Malawi. Because most Malawians lack transportation to medical care, the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) brings care to them. “Mobile clinics” offer HIV testing, prenatal care, family planning and care for acute illnesses. Separately, 250 caregivers visit homes in 60 villages.

On a listening tour in August, I visited a mobile clinic near the Mozambique border.

After a 90-minute drive on pockmarked roads, our group was greeted by 100 women and children singing and enveloping us. They reached their hands out for a chance to squeeze ours. Their hands were rough but their grasp was warm. Their music and smiles practically carried us on air the 200 yards to the clinic.

I hugged and smiled and locked eyes, hoping to superglue those sights and sounds inside my mind so I would never forget.

Twenty minutes later, we were inside a small brick building usually used as a church. A clinical officer sat on a cement bench. I claimed a chair next to him. In his lap were test strips.

The women we met outside entered individually and sat next to him on the cement. Their faces turned serious. One by one they reached out a hand, palm up, and he pricked a finger. He dabbed blood onto the paper-thin test strip.

He was testing them for HIV.

Soon, there were a few dozen tests lined up. Good news: only one woman tested positive that day.

Here’s more good news. This year, through GAIA:

• 13,139 children under 5 were treated for malaria
• 307 pregnant women received prenatal care
• More than 1,500 women received family planning
• 21,986 children received growth monitoring to track nutrition

These statistics are counting people who otherwise would have to walk many miles for even the most basic care.

And when I met Charles, he was all smiles, recovering in a hospital.

That’s proof worth celebrating.

Kim Dixon Perez is a ONE member and freelance writer based in Pasadena, Calif.

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