Muli bwanji? In Malawi you hardly ever have an exchange without asking the other person how they are, and you can be sure you’ll always be asked back. The country is known as “The Warm Heart of Africa,” and all who visit have the opportunity to confirm this statement. Since 1990, it has hosted the UNC Project-Malawi (UNCPM), a collaboration between UNC Chapel Hill and the Malawi Ministry of Health. It is located on the campus of Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital city of Lilongwe. The project’s mission is to identify innovative, culturally acceptable, and affordable methods to improve the health of the people of Malawi, through research, capacity building, and care. The scope of activities has diversified since then.
Before I moved to North Carolina and started the MPH program in the department of Health Behavior, I lived in Lilongwe from 2013 to 2016, working for the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2015, I met my wife when she was working at UNC Project-Malawi and because of her research in pediatric oncology we have kept in contact with the project since we moved. This summer I was fortunate enough to join the project to work on a research study called, “Mother Infant Retention-Promoting Mother Infant Retention along the HIV Care Continuum: A Comparative Effectiveness Evaluation of Three Models for Community Facility Linkage.” The study’s goal is to characterize widely adopted community-facility linkage models and assess the impact on mother-infant pair care retention and the Prevention of Maternal-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV under “real world” conditions in Malawi.
My participation in the study involves a literature review describing issues of HIV linkage to care during the Universal Test and Treat area in Sub-Sharan Africa and other high-burden settings. The review should be published in a special supplement about linkage to care in the AIDS and Behaviour journal, and I will be included as one of the co-authors of the article. For the past week, I have been accompanying the study team during their last data collection activities in two sites near Lilongwe, before they move to other sites in the north of the country. For the rest of my practicum I will be working with an epidemiologist to conduct an interim data analysis and the study’s coordinator to prepare an interim report for the study funder, USAID/PEPFAR, and for key Malawian policymakers.