Meet Watson, a dedicated staff member who has worked as a Driver for Theatre for a Change Malawi for six years. Watson loves being involved in the Mobile Health Clinic, saying; “it makes me happy to help people”.
It is a hot morning in February 2018. With Watson behind the wheel, the Mobile Health Clinic minibus transports Bettie – our Community Nurse, Grace – our Community Health Assistant, two Government HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC) workers and all the medical supplies they need for the day, to the ‘hotspot’ they will be visiting. ‘Hotspots’ are typically a complex of bars and a resthouse (brothel), located in some of the poorest areas of Lilongwe.
The minibus parks up outside a resthouse – a series of small rooms clustered around a central courtyard, currently full of washing hanging out to dry in the sunshine. To be able to live there, the women must go to the surrounding bars and bring clients back to their cramped room for sex – deeper poverty, hunger and homelessness is the alternative. Their children run around playing together, ducking in and out of the washing. Most of them are very young, and some run to sit on their mothers’ laps when they sit down to take part in our activities.
Grace and Bettie gather a group of around 12 female sex workers together to give a detailed demonstration on how to use male and female condoms.
The women ask questions on condom use, answer questions on how often they use contraception and the challenges and successes they have had with negotiating condom use during their interaction with clients, and read the condom use instruction leaflets that are distributed.
At the end of the demonstration, the women queue up and are given male and female condoms and lubricant to take away with them to use. As with all the services our Clinic provides, the condoms are completely free. Many of the women are not able to access contraception as they cannot afford to pay the bus fare to travel to free health clinics – the Mobile Health Clinic is therefore a vital service for them.
As well as driving the Mobile Health Clinic minibus, Watson helps the team with male and female condom counting, distribution and recording. Here, Watson is recording the number of condoms given to a male client.
Grace also hands out Albendazole tablets for the mothers in the group – used to treat their children aged two upwards for a variety of parasitic worm infestations, which are common in the communities we serve.
Bettie and the two Government HTC workers head to the minibus to start their consultations for the female sex workers, their male clients, and other members of the community who need to access our services. To maintain confidentiality, participants queue up and enter the minibus one at a time, closing the door behind them.
Bettie – a Nurse with over 20 years of experience, takes charge of testing, treatment and referrals for sexually transmitted infections. She also offers pregnancy tests and gives contraceptive pills and the Depo Provera contraceptive injection to participants who want to use additional or alternative methods of contraception.
The two Government HTC workers deal with HIV testing and counselling. The HIV tests can be read in five minutes, meaning many tests can be offered per visit, and participants do not have a long wait to hear their result. Above, one of the HTC workers holds a consultation with a male client visiting the Clinic to be tested for HIV, and speaks with him about how to have safe sex and stay healthy.
The rest of the team interact with the community – discussing sexual and reproductive health, and general health. Above, community members wait to weigh themselves on the Clinic scales.
After several busy hours, the team finish their consultations and outreach. They will return at a later date to continue caring for current and new participants in this community who need their support to protect their health.
Just £5 enables us to test a participant for HIV through our Mobile Health Clinic. Please click here to support our vital work by giving £5 today.