As we reach the village of Mpothe, about 20 minutes away from the hospital of Mthengo wa Ntenga, we immediately meet well-known faces. The chief of the village and James welcome us, we are a familiar presence at last. There have been indeed several meetings, but today’s occasion is a special one. Today, for the first time, we are here for HIV testing in the village. In Malawi, like many other Sub-Saharan African countries, 80% of the population lives far from the cities, in small villages, from which it is often difficult to reach the larger towns. The people in these villages meet a lot of diifficulties in accessing health services, mainly present in the large centres. Moving is not easy, and very expensive, often too much for the poor resources of Malawian peasants. Some among our patients must walk even for three hours to reach the hospital. In such conditions, people often give up treatments, except when the illness is so severe that there is no other choice left. Very often, it is too late and the treatment, mainly as far as AIDS is concerned, cannot have a positive effect any longer. That is why we have decided to go toward these people, and we have chosen Mpothe as our first trip.
A numerous crowd is waiting for us, among whom mainly women of all ages, longing for doing the HIV test, to know if they have the infection. All are registered by the activists first, then the test is performed with the assistance of a nurse and a counsellor, who has a talk with them at the time of giving the response. Everything takes place around and inside the only brick building of the village, serving also as a church. The atmosphere is serene, all is made orderly and without troubles. Fifty-one tests in a morning, and five seropositive people who will access our centre tomorrow to receive the treatment. The promise of the treatment has made everything simpler and calmer. It is not a condemnation to be aware of being seropositive, but the first step to be cared for and to fight the illness. Finally, the people in the village give us freshly toasted peanuts and fruit as a gift to show their gratitude. The next appointment two weeks later with other 25 people: only one will result positive to the test for HIV infection.
We leave, giving one more appointment, with the sensation of having walked another step forward to a more widespread access to the treatment, and a better awareness that there is an answer against AIDS.