Access to PrEP transforms life of a young woman in Zomba

Passing through the narrow road of Likangala market especially around lunch time, one would easily notice a fully packed restaurant with customers.  The restaurant situated 30 metres away from Likangala Health Centre in Zomba district is owned by 22-year-old Hendrina who is well known for cooking delicious and mouth-watering meals.

She smiles as she says, “running this business successfully was a dream I thought will never come to pass”

Two years ago, Hendrina was without hope and motivation to engage in any economic activity.

Hendrina had lost confidence in herself in 2018 when her husband, James (not real name), had started a fishing business. The business made James spend a week of every month on Lake Chilwa. He usually stays home four days a month and the rest of the days are spent in Zomba town and surrounding districts like Machinga and Blantyre where he sells the fish.

picture of Catherine

Hendrina narrates her story. Photo credit: Chikondi Lunduka/FHI 360

Since James started the business, Hendrina caught him cheating with other women including sex workers on several occasions. She was so upset and depressed because she knew she was at high risk of contracting HIV due to her husband’s risky sexual behaviour. This negatively affected her to the extent that she could not engage in any economic activity.

She says her life turned around in May 2021 when she joined Tikondane DREAMS club through Malawi EMPOWER’S Community Partner Ana Patsogolo.

“At the club, I learnt so many things like family planning and HIV prevention through use of PrEP. A few weeks later, a team from Malawi EMPOWER came to our club to provide different HIV and sexual reproductive health services and taught us again about HIV prevention and treatment including use of PrEP” she says.

She says the session with Malawi EMPOWER convinced her to seek PrEP.

“The team screened and tested me for HIV to which the result came negative. They escorted me to Likangala Health Centre to access PrEP,” she explains. “The team later connected me to a Youth Community Based Distributor Agent (YCBDA) who follows up on me on how I’m taking the drugs and escort me to the health facility for refill,” she explains.

Hendrina says PrEP boosted her confidence that she got the energy to open her restaurant in June 2021.  She is able to run her business without stress, knowing she is protected from HIV.  She says she is now at peace that she even took it upon herself to teach her peers about PrEP.

“I have been able to talk to three of my friends who had worries like mine and they are now using PrEP,” she says.

Memory Chithambo is one of the YCBDAs who was recruited by Malawi EMPOWER in February 2021 to support in the provision of HIV, SRH and GBV services at community level.  She says Hendrina is one of theAGYW she supports to ensure they take their PrEP properly.

“I relentlessly follow up with the AGYW on how they are taking PrEP and ensure they get a refill of the drugs at the right time,” she says.

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