ESCOM and BWB step-up HIV/AIDS and Wellness Awareness workshops

By Cosmas Kaunga, ESCOM Outreach Officer

Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) Limited and Blantyre Water Board (BWB) conducted yet another HIV/AIDS and Wellness workshop from November 20 to 23 2023 in Lilongwe.

The two parastatals carried out a similar workshop at St John of God in Mzuzu from January 30 to February 1 2023.

The latest workshop, which pulled together heads of secti

ons and peer educators from ESCOM and BWB, was aimed at equipping the participants with knowledge of the preventive measures and management of HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Delivering his speech when opening the workshop on November 20 2023, ESCOM Director of Human Resources and Administration, Chrispin Banda, said the meeting was important, as it complements the government’s efforts of ending HIV/AIDS by the year 2030.

“ESCOM spends a lot of money to buy medical supplies to treat those affected by HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted diseases. The corporation also loses out due to high absenteeism as a result of these issues,” said Banda who was the guest of honour.

“These efforts shall, therefore, help ESCOM and BWB maintain a healthy workforce, which should help these parastatals achieve high productivity and also save costs after the pandemic ceases to be a public threat.”

Banda implored heads of sections and peer educators at ESCOM to sensitise all employees to practice safe sex.

Taking her turn, Esther Makunganya, the chairperson of the HIV/AIDS and Wellness Committee at ESCOM

Limited, said the workshop was among the interventions the two utility companies have put in place to continuously fight the pandemic at the workplaces.

“We have to ensure that everyone in the workplace has the correct information regarding the pandemic to help them live healthily if they test HIV positive and/or even negative. To do this, we have to ensure that we conduct capacity-building to peer educators and heads of sections, who are responsible for sensitising the members of staff,” she said.

Charity Harawa, a facilitator from ESCOM, said the corporation has HIV/AIDS Policy to create awareness and encourage preventive measures among employees.

“The policy further seeks to provide care and support and remove stigma and discrimination among employees, on the basis of real or perceived HIV status within the corporation,” she said.

Paul Chiumia, BWB Director of Finance, who is also a peer educator at his institution, said in 2014, the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAids) launched the 95-95-95 target.

Chiumia said the aim of the target was to diagnose 95 percent of the world’s population of HIV, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) to 95 percent of those that have tested positive and that 95 percent of those on ART should have their viral load suppressed by 2030.

“As of 2023, UNAids has tested 94 percent for HIV, 90 percent are on ART and 94 percent of those on ARTs have their viral load suppressed,” he said.

Chiumia said these statistics bear witness to the UNAids’ commitment to end the threat that HIV/AIDS poses to the world by 2030.

Stanley Kasawala Phiri, another facilitator from BWB, advised heads of sections and peer educators to master communication skills, saying they were key to their role of educating others on the dangers of the pandemic.

“As peer educators, you need to be effective and credible communicators. You also need to have adequate knowledge of the intended audience and use appropriate language as well as non-verbal gestures to allow your peers to feel comfortable when talking about issues of sexuality and HIV/AIDS,” he said.

Phiri further advised heads of sections and peer educators to exercise confidentiality, saying this is a medical and legal requirement.

Each year, on 1 December, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. On this day, people around the world unite to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. This year, the World AIDS Day will be commemorated under the theme: “Let Communities Lead”.

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