Renilia da Santa Juvenildo belongs to Malhahe Association, (a term from Xitswua language which means Messengers) where she has been working for two years in the process of community awareness on disease prevention, especially HIV-AIDS, Tuberculosis.
The community activist, who works in the area of health, regrets the fact that Covid-19 is contributing to the reduction of patients seeking antiretroviral treatment. It means patients fear to be contaminated by Covid-19 disease in the health unit.
“I think that health units have to pay attention to the way they assist patients with chronic diseases, because we may lose a lot of people if we do not take appropriate measures. Let us not forget that we had been dealing with other diseases before Covid-19”, says Renilia Juvenildo.
As a “messenger”, Renilia works day after day at TingaTinga health center –in Maxixe District, Inhambane Province, southern region of Mozambique – in raising patients’ awareness of continuous importance of combating chronic diseases through treatment, as well as in sensitizing patients so that they may overcome the discrimination they suffer in the community.
The activist says that, from the perspective of many patients, the following factors constitute a barrier to the treatment: the long distances traveled to reach the health units, the cost of transport, the long time in the waiting line, as well as the need to carry out other activities to support the family.
One of the goals of Malhahe is to assist antiretroviral dependent patients (ART), so that they do not give up to go to the health unit in search of treatment, thus decreasing the number of people giving up the HIV treatment.
On the other hand, as a way of reducing the burden of health units, Renilia Juvenildo has strived to promote active participation of patients in the treatment and distribution of medicines.
The activist also makes her contribution to psychosocial care for patients in TARV, bringing them together in groups to discuss better mechanisms to face health units, in order to establish an alert system for the screening of various diseases and situations of abandonment of treatment.
“I work as an activist in the health sector to help people to understand their health situation, as well as I strive to make them know that they have rights and duties as users”, says the activist.
One of Malhahe’s strategies points to community involvement, working directly with patients.
“Through the lecture, counseling and awareness of the community to take the test, being in treatment and making home visits, I think we are being an important link between the hospital and the community, with regard to patient retention”, explains Renilia Juvenildo.
Malhahe activists live in the same neighborhoods in which they operate, so that they do not travel long distances to carry out their work, thus facilitating their activities. Awareness raising and recommendation to health facilities are crucial to support residents of Tinga Tinga Community.
“There are still many people who do not accept the disease, thus delaying the work of health professionals. Unfortunately, they agree to go to the health when they are extremely debilitated. After the discovery of the disease, the follow up of activist is very important so that the patient can go on with the treatment, knowing the possibility of living a healthy life with the medication”, advanced Renilia Juvenildo.
During the first few days, says the community activist, she and her colleagues accompany the patients to the doctor during the first phase of treatment, when the patient begins to take the medication.
“It is the activist who visits the patients’ homes, encouraging them to continue with the treatment during the first few months, until there is a guarantee that the patients will continue with the treatment on their own: when, finally, they accept their condition and realizing that they need the medication to be able to live healthily”, closed the activist.