Baby Ava* is HIV-positive. Her mother was frightened and in denial about her own HIV diagnosis so she dropped out of treatment early in the process. Ava’s mother is the second wife of her father. He works in the mines in South Africa and tragically brought more than his salary home to the family. Both wives have the virus. The first wife is thriving under anti-retro-viral treatment and her five children appear to be HIV-free. Ava’s mother has begun sporadic treatment again, but she’s committed to bringing Ava to the clinic on schedule.
Ava’s doing well because two young community health workers were persistent. Armed with a binder of instructions and laminated pictures, training and support from Jhpiego and Save the Children, Xiada and Matteos are experts on their community. They live and work in Boane and know each home and family group as part of Boane’s health committee. Because of low literacy rates, they use materials that are visual and easy to understand for all education levels.
On one side are detailed written questions and prompts for the community health workers. On the other side are pictures to help those who can’t read understand signs and symptoms of illness, or strategies to keep them safer and healthier.
Save the Children focuses on supporting Matteos and Xiada in the community, Jhpiego’s work provides the local health facility and medical resources. Collectively the initiative (part of the Maternal Child Survival Program) takes young locals like Matteos and Xiada, gives them a curriculum and tools and sends them into their community.
In one week, the pair can visit 200 houses. In the case of Ava’s mother, they visit every single week, to invite, motivate and cajole her into getting treatment. It’s worked for the baby, and beginning to work for mother too. She’s been receiving anti-retrovirals more consistently.
Xiada and Matteos are passionate about their people and determined to help their community become healthier and stronger. They are evangelists for improving the health of mothers and children, hygiene, sanitation and getting the sick into care. They are the face of improvement and progress for Boane, one door knock at a time.
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*We have changed her name to maintain privacy
Chrysula Winegar was in Mozambique as part of an International Reporting Project Fellowship.
Photos courtesy of Chrysula Winegar