UN Plus in Malawi

On 14th June, 2006 at the UN Learning Resource Center in the capital city, Lilongwe. Executive Director for UNAIDS Dr Piot launched the UN Plus in Malawi. This is a historic moment we all cerebrate as we saw the birth of UN Plus in Malawi. On this day we also saw the first UN Staff members come up in the open about their HIV+ sero Status. In his speech “Dr. Piot warned staff members against gossiping about staff members living with HIV or suspected to be living with HIV, and further urged staff to give each other hope and support in breaking the fear and silence at the UN work place”.

UN Plus Malawi is a group of UN staff who are living positively with HIV.  This group offers a great opportunity for members to share face-to-face, their experiences of positive living and survival skills, treatment care and support, stigma and discrimination and other issues regarding HIV and AIDS, as well as looking at how their specific work environments are responding to the UN HIV/AIDS Personnel Policy and HIV and AIDS guidelines.  Malawi has got the largest representation in the UN Plus Global.  This demonstrates not only the fact that Malawi is one of the worst-hit by the pandemic but also the management support within UN Malawi that is being rendered to the process of responding to the presence of the pandemic and move forward the agenda which can help UN staff who are living with HIV and AIDS within the UN workspace.

The group meets once a month for Health sessions and once every month for routine UN Plus meetings and is currently being steered by the HELP Coordinator.

Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the group is a channel for advocacy within the UN system, as an organization that is exerting a lot of effort towards supporting the national response in the area of HIV and AIDS.  This work of advocacy will have the resultant effect of keeping the UN as an organization ahead of its partners in the realm of HIV/AIDS policy development and implementation, human rights, treatment, care and support.

The group offers Malawi a rare opportunity to put GIPA (the Greater Involvement of People living with HIV and AIDS) into practice and to shift towards MIPA (the Meaningful Involvement of People living with HIV and AIDS).

UN Plus in Malawi currently offers peer support to members and assists all UN staff to cope with the presence of HIV and AIDS.  At each of its meetings, the group accords members a chance to detail their diagnostic history and progress; which are all helpful in ensuring drug adherence and therefore, prolonging life.

In terms of membership, there is a fair balance between the two genders- male and female, although it is evident that women are more likely to share their experiences.  Over the last few months there has been a tremendous increase in internal discourse on the subject of HIV and AIDS within the UN Malawi workplace.  As staff have been engaged in sessions within their agencies and been introduced to the practicalities of living daily with HIV and AIDS, However, there are indications from national groups of people living with HIV and AIDS that disclosure assists one to accept his or her positive sero-status results; adhere to the drug regiment, challenge stigma and discrimination, that are currently at extremely high proportions in society.

UN+ in Malawi is a great achievement for as it represents one way in which UN reform can be attained as it is clear from this group that it is possible to transcend all barriers of gender, age, agency and professional fields to respond positively to HIV and AIDS.  In celebration UN Plus Malawi has managed to achieve the following:

  • Increase in membership (11 members)
  • Taking the lead in NO MORE SHAME CAMPAIGN where a group 30 activists declare their HIV Plus sero status to the Malawi Nation.
  • Help UN Plus members to start living positively and open about their HIV and AIDS sero status within the UN workplace
  • Registration UN Plus Malawi chapter members to the e workspace of UN Plus Global.
  • Supporting and taking the lead in UN Cares The first Candle Light commemoration conducted in the UN workplace.
  • UN Plus Malawi chapter representation in the Globe Advisory Board
  • Registering UN Plus members with other national Networks

The Malawi UN Plus Malawi has managed to collaborate with other national groups of people Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi in the areas of advocacy such as National Association for people Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi (NAPHAM) Malawi Network of People Living with HIV and In Malawi (MANET+), Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Infected or Affected by HIV and AIDS in Malawi (MANARELA) and the Coalition of women Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi (COWLHA) The UN Plus in Malawi group is currently supported by UNAIDS-Malawi and the UN Malawi Theme Group on HIV/AIDS. With this support Staff within the United Nations System in Malawi are finding the courage to come out openly about their positive sero-status and put a human face to HIV and AIDS.

The Resident Coordinator and the UN Heads of Agencies have been involved in making HIV  a priority area of redress in Malawi .

For more information contact:

Fexter Seyara:

Merina Sambo: