Besinati's Story: “When I see these changes, it’s all worthwhile”

Besinati's Story: “When I see these changes, it’s all worthwhile”

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Jessica Perrin

The AIDS pandemic has devastating and debilitating long-term implications, and these effects are most apparent in Africa, where the disease is strangling the continent. 

In Malawi is a small, landlocked country where 65 percent of the population lives in poverty. Its population struggles also struggling with one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world.  CARE is working to turn things around and change the perception people hold of people living with HIV and AIDS

Besinati Kabala, 35, is one such person. With education as her tool and the children of future generations as her motivation, Besinati is courageously changing the face of HIV in the minds of people in her community with the help of CARE. 

A while back, CARE set up village committees tasked with addressing the community’s most pressing needs. Besinati joined the committee in her village, bringing a voice and a face of HIV and AIDS with her. 

“Before I was in the group, people living with HIV were discriminated against. I became a member of the committee to represent the voice of other people with HIV,” she says. “I took the discrimination as a part of life because most people at that point weren’t aware of what HIV was; there was a lot of stigma.”

In an act of bravery, Besinati was one of the first women in her village to declare her status to her friends, family and the committee. She explains, “I decided to put myself out in the open and tell my community my status so that the discrimination would cease.”

Since then, she has worked hard to bring HIV into the public eye and help people understand what it is like to live as a HIV-positive person. 

“A lot of people are dying from HIV-related infections and diseases because they are not taken care of, so I decided to start a support group to assist those people who are affected,” she says. “I wasn’t afraid to start the group because I wanted to help.”

After receiving training from CARE, Besinati started her a HIV support group for people living with the disease in her community. The 37 members of the group meet every Saturday afternoon and, according to Besinati, “We teach each other how to take away our worries and how to best manage our homes with good food and sanitation – like having clean water in our homes – to reduce [opportunistic] infections.”

Her hard work is paying off! More people are going for voluntary HIV testing, counseling and treatment. Besinati tells of transformations she’s witnessed because people are more willing to seek care, “Those that were bedridden can now walk. When I see these changes, it’s all worthwhile. I feel powerful because I’m seeing the changes from my work.” 

As Besinati gently cradles a small child in her arms, her message is clear. She hopes for a better future for this child – and she’s willing to do what it takes to create one.