On Dec. 10th , 2009, the Vice President of the Malawi Republic, The Right Hon. Joyce Banda, paid an official visit to the DREAM centre in Blantyre.
There was great expectation on the part of the centre’s patients and staff for the visit which had been announced several weeks earlier and which manifested the Government’s appreciation for DREAM’s commitment to treating HIV patients in Malawi.
The Vice President visited the Molecular Biology laboratory, which has been in operation for several years and is one of the best-equipped, advanced labs in Africa for the diagnosis of AIDS.
The visit which took place in the course of a normal day at the centre followed the same pattern as for that of any patient. In every room the delegation stopped to talk with the staff who illustrated the centre’s activity.
The presentation by the centre’s staff provided the key to understanding the success of the DREAM programme which in Malawi alone treats more than 16,000 patients.
The Hon. Joyce Banda paused to ask the staff questions and to have more information about various aspects, such as the protocol for the vertical prevention programme which has made it possible for thousands of sieropositive mothers to give birth to healthy babies, the use of paediatric antiretroviral drugs, the nutritional support programme and data on the centre’s activity.
She complimented the clinic’s personnel on their integration with the country’s health system, their collaboration with the state-run maternity service and on the data regarding the decrease in maternal mortality (which is even lower than that of the population not affected by AIDS) and for the large numbers of babies born in the programme.
The Vice President also visited the nutritional department and the storeroom where food for malnourished patients is distributed, pausing to speak and listen attentively to several patients who were present and to a group of activists who described the part they play in supporting the patients at the centre and in homecare.
The laboratory with all its equipment excited great surprise. The chief biologist explained the use of the various machines and the Vice President underlined the importance of the existence of a laboratory such as this in Malawi, one of the most advanced in the whole of Southern Africa, which provides free services for the patients and is not limited to research.
The second part of the visit took place at the polifunctional centre for the Project Malawi of Kapeni.
Here too, large numbers of DREAM patients crowded the rooms and the outer courtyard.
After the visit there were various speeches, among which one by Misonzi Mwase, an activist of the I DREAM Movement, who described her personal story and the Movement’s work to help the sick and to combat the stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS.
In her speech during the closing ceremony, the Hon. Joyce Banda went over the main points of the visit, highlighting the importance of the collaboration between the various partners of Project Malawi.
She encouraged the spread of the DREAM centres starting with Misonzi’s testimony which she held up as an example of how, thanks to good treatment, it is possible to return to a normal life and fight strenuously against stigma and discrimination.
In her closing comments, and speaking on behalf of the President and the entire Government of Malawi, she reassured all those present of their commitment to facing the fight against AIDS with determination.