I am Pacemo Mnyenyembe the person responsible in Malawi for Movement I DREAM which began in 2007.
Allow me, Honorable Minister and all participants here present at this international Workshop for the prevention of Mother to child transmission of HIV Infection, to share with you what the movement I DREAM is.
The movement of I DREAM in Malawi began on the 5th of May 2007. We the HIV positive women in Malawi would like to express our infinite gratitude and thanks to the Community of Sant’Egidio for their continuous dedication in the fight against HIV. One year and six months has passed since the first success story of Mother to Child transmission program in Malawi. Now, many children born from HIV positive mothers are HIV negative. To convey our appreciation we decided we had to do something. After all DREAM has given us all a new life. So we began to mobilize fellow Malawians with the intention of helping one another and to help save the many sick children in this country. It must be said that at the beginning it was very difficult for a pregnant HIV positive woman, to believe that if she followed through with the PMTCT program, that it would be possible to bear a child who would be HIV negative.
The movement I DREAM has really helped us because in our condition it is hard to stand on our own facing stigma and insults from people. But in a group we have been able to give hope, love, strength and courage to many women living with HIV. We have helped them to find ways on how to disclose their status to their spouses as well as encouraging many to live in faith and hope during difficult times..
Honorable Minister, it is a very painful and shameful thing, in a society to have a child who is HIV positive. People see us like prostitutes; some say we are not caring mothers. We are called many hurtful things that sometimes we even feel ashamed to be Malawians.
There are many HIV positive children in our society who are regarded as useless children. They cannot contribute to society any more. They are children who don’t have a future. When they go to school they are always insulted by their friends. WHY shouldn’t an HIV positive child have the right to go to school? When, we all know that sooner or later they will die. They are positive because their mothers did not have access to the PMTCT program. Is this their fault?
There are many innocent children in Malawi who cry day and night. Some of them refuse to take ARV tablets because they don’t understand why in their family, they are the only ones who need to take drugs. Many of these children don’t even know how they contracted the virus. Honorable Minister it is very difficult for a mother to explain to her child how this happened.
Despite all the problems and difficulties we face each day we are very thankful for the PMTCT program in Malawi, which has saved many children who would otherwise have been born with the virus.
Thank you Honorable Minister for having given me this wonderful opportunity to speak today. On behalf of all the HIV positive mothers I would like to request that the PMCTC program be extended all over Malawi, not only in the urban areas but also to all the remote areas too, where there are many HIV positive mothers who still don’t believe that they can have an HIV negative child. If this can be achieved then the DREAM will come true. We will have an AIDS free generation.