Mobile testing sparks fear of ‘bloodsuckers’

HIV test by LMEC, Kampala

The Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP) collects and documents human rights abuses against members of the LGBT+ community across Malawi. Most cases of abuse are not related to CEDEP’s activities – but rather to its membership base.

However, as part of CEDEP’s HIV prevention efforts it offers mobile, and stigma-free testing to Key Populations in remote areas. This is not always well-received by the local communities.

Following a testing exercise in 2020, the members of one such community became suspicious and confronted clients who were getting tested.

Team accused of “Conniving with bloodsuckers”
They alleged that the testing was done in connivance with bloodsuckers with the purpose of penetrating their village. This stirred up emotions and led to commotion in the village as some people wanted mob justice.

Luckily others wanted the matter to be resolved amicably – and some members wanted to know the master minders of this bloodsucking saga.

Mob justice averted
Finally, with the help of the chiefs it was resolved that the victims be kept under house arrest with close observation by community members with the aim of blocking communication between the victims and the blood suckers; that is the team that was providing testing service from CEDEP.

The Peer Educators from the area reported the matter to the district coordinator who reported the case to the police.

Information shared and awareness raised
The Traditional Authority and the Member of Parliament were informed of the visit and they mobilized the chiefs and community members.

Consequently, a team from CEDEP visited the area with police officers and shared information on mobile testing that some NGOs carry out in Malawi, they dispelled the bloodsucker’s myths, and addressed other general issues of concern such as the fear of Corona.

Suspicion remains
Whereas tensions have eased the MP for the area and some chiefs are still not convinced and the Peer Educators are afraid to go to the area.