Originally published on November 12, 2014.
HIV/AIDS is a major health epidemic in Malawi, where nearly 12 percent of the adult population has an HIV infection. Land O'Lakes International Development’s Malawi Dairy Development Alliance (MDDA), funded by USAID, is helping to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and support the health of the farmers we are supporting by providing HIV prevention services to members of our of milk bulking groups. In collaboration with local HIV/AIDS organizations, Land O’Lakes has reached over 2,658 dairy farmers with HIV/AIDS prevention interventions. In addition to promoting voluntary counseling and testing services, farmers have been educated about HIV transmission and prevention, as well as about the importance of knowing one's status.
Ayidi Gilibati, a dairy farmer from Magomero Milk Bulking Group, praises Land O’Lakes approach to HIV/AIDS prevention, stating "people didn't understand HIV/AIDS, let alone the importance of testing."
Ayidi Gilibati, Vice Secretary of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Committee for Magomero Milk Bulking Group, who is a married mother of five, participated in the HIV prevention training. She felt that "the training was an eye opener to the group; it made people understand the real life issues surrounding HIV. The trainers were encouraging, they were teaching out of love, they were not threatening and people felt comfortable." Gilibati also made the important decision to directly follow the training with a rapid HIV antibody blood test, so that she could learn her HIV status. When asked what motivated her to learn her status, she articulated that she wanted to be a model for the group and stated, "I just wanted to know about my life."
Not only did the training help educate milk bulking group members about HIV transmission and prevention, and encourage them to find out their status, it also reduced stigma and promoted understanding within the milk bulking group. "One of the impacts was that most people, before the training, would hide their HIV status. But, after the training, members have publically come out with their status," Gilbati said. One member emphasized the change in mindset the training led to, relating. "Before we had a negative attitude. But now, we treat HIV-positive individuals as part of our community, as part of whatever we do."