At least 3500 youths from the area of Traditional Authority Ndamera in Nsanje District are expected to be HIV-tested by March 2019 under the Goals for Life Project being implemented by a local non-governmental organization known as Friends of AIDS Support Trust (FAST).
FAST Programme Manager, Mweta Katemba, said in liaison with the District Health Office (DHO), the organisation would implement the project whose objective is to provide HIV/AIDS testing and counseling (HTC) services to the youth in the district.
Speaking in an interview with Malawi News Agency on Tuesday, Katemba said over 3500 youths between the ages of 15 and 24 in Traditional Authority Ndamera would be targeted to reduce stigma and discrimination against adolescents living with HIV.
Katemba said through the mobilization of communities on HIV testing and referring those tested HIV-positive for further services such as treatment, would bridge the existing gap among the youth.
He said FAST would use already existing youth-friendly health service coordinators, peer educators and youth clubs to distribute 200 T-shirts with messages promoting HIV testing among the youth. The strategy, according to Katemba, would attract more youth to come for HIV testing and counseling.
“We know that to convince a young person to come for testing is not easy but we believe that through such strategies, many will be reached with messages on the importance of HIV testing and counseling,” Katemba said.
He, therefore, said those who test positive would be encouraged to join support groups, especially for young people living with HIV where they would be discussing and addressing different issues concerning their lives.
Nsanje District AIDS Coordinator, Mcknowledge Tembo, commended FAST for coming up with the initiative, saying it has targeted an area which currently has higher HIV prevalence of about 17 per cent of the youth population compared with other areas in the district.
“The project will help in behaviour change among young people as those who will be tested negative will need to safeguard their status while those tested positive will be advised, the through support groups, not to transmit the virus to others, thereby reducing new infections,” said Tembo.
The project will run for a year with funding to the tune of US$16,942 (approx. K12. 4 million) from the United States Embassy in Lilongwe.