Various shots from a National Association for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi (NAPHAM) support group meeting in the remote village of Chidothe in Thyolo District.. Many of these patients receive their drugs through the Community ART Group (CAG) model of care. Based on a model started by MSF in Mozambique, CAGs are a community-based initiative that bring together ARV patients to take turns on a rotating basis to collect ARVs every month. In Chidothe, the nearest ARV clinic is 5km away. The Chidothe support group also discusses adherence issues and positive living – recently they’ve learned the importance of viral load testing.
When a support group leader asked the group how many had received a viral load test recently, practically the entire room raised their hands. In Malawi, “Tizirombo ta HIV” means HIV viral load, using the Chichewa word for “germ” to describe the virus.
The group meets every week and they link up with village chiefs to run plays and talk about their status. “Before we started in 2003 people were very worried and there were many AIDS deaths in the community,” one member said. “We decided that if we came together, we could support each other.”