BY MIKE CHIPALASA
At least 50,000 people around Mtendere area in Dedza will no longer have to walk long distances to access Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) services with the opening of a K7 million facility at Mtendere Community Hospital on Friday.
The facility becomes the fifth centre to offer VCT services in the district, according to the District Health Officer, Thomas Salim.
The Dream project, which is under the Community of Sant’ Egidio and was built with funding from African Directo organisation.
Guest of honour at the opening, Bishop Emmanuel Kanyama of Dedza Diocese called on people surrounding Mtendere area to utilize the facility by going for HIV tests.
Kanyama also asked the youth to patronize the centre for them to make the right choices, arguing that the future of the country and the church was in the hands of a healthy youth.
The bishop advised the youth to take education seriously if they were to become better leaders, adding it was education that would make them realize the importance of knowing their sero-status.
“Take care of yourselves first and be educated for you to become better leaders and this facility will help you in that direction. The future of the country and the church lies in you, the youth,” he said.
At the ceremony, three people who are living positively with the virus gave their testimonies, and there were traditional dances and drama performances.
Dream Country representative Roberto Lunchi said that his organisation which is in 10 African countries has benefited over 500,000 people since 2002 when it was first established in Mozambique.
He said there were 31 centres which are spread in different countries.
Speaking earlier, Florence Kamkota of Mtendere hospital, said the hospital started offering Prevention from Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) in December 2007 and that out of the 1,158 expectant mothers who tested, 62 were found HIV positive, representing a 5.35 percent prevalence rate.
In February 2008, an HIV testing and counseling clinic was opened at the hospital which saw 2,145 people tested, with 184 being found positive, representing 8.6 percent prevalence rate but provision of ARV treatment started in April, Kamkota said.
Dream, which stands for Drug Resources Enhancement against Aids and Malnutrition, started operating in Malawi in 2004.
Currently, it is operating in Dowa, Blantyre, Balaka, Mangochi, Chikwawa, Mzimba, Lilongwe and Dedza.