Training by AHM staff

Action Hope Malawi

Action Hope Malawi plays a vital role in slowing down the spread of HIV among sex workers - as well as changing the attitudes to sex workers in local communities.

Providing prevention, fighting stigma

AIDS-Fondet funds and supports Action Hope Malawi to build sex workers’ ability to protect themselves against HIV – and works to eliminate some of the factors that increase the risk of HIV – violence, stigma, and discrimination – in the communities where the sex workers live and work (hotspots).

Making a change in people around KP’s

Action Hope Malawi also works with a broad group of stakeholders to influence how sex workers are treated and perceived in the communities they live in – and the districts at large. Especially in places where relevant services are offered – but not always in friendly way.

These stakeholders include:

  • Police officers
  • Health service providers
  • Judiciary
  • Male Champions (bar/club/brothel owners and managers)
  • Civil Society
  • Duty bearers
  • Several government bodies working with the welfare of children, women, and vulnerable groups in general.

The programme

The aim is to raise awareness and garner support for sexual minorities’ rights in communities and at local government level.

Through the programme AHM offers support to:

  • Promote informed and regular prevention and testing routines among sex workers and ensure adherence to medicine among those living with HIV or other STI
  • Establish or sustain Village Savings and Loans (VSLs) associations and train sex workers in business management
  • Sensitize and build capacity of a broad range of stakeholders to ensure just and fair treatment of Key Populations

In 2022-2025 AHM will sharpen its focus on young girls trading sex for money – as Corona has led to an increase in young girls around the hotspots where AHM works.

About AHM

Action Hope Malawi was founded in 2005 as a community based organisation in Zomba district by local community members – some of whom were living with HIV – in response to the massive health education problems in the district.

Action Hope Malawi’s main mission is to protect and defend the rights of vulnerable and disadvantaged populations through rights awareness, capacity building, mediation and provision of social, political and economical services among women, youth and children.

Action Hope Malawi is strategically structured into four service programs for effective implementation of its activities:

With an HIV prevalence rate of 17 %, Zomba district has almost twice the HIV prevalence of the country.

It has since expanded and now also works in Blantyre and Machinga districts.

  • Youth Development
  • Women & Gender
  • Human Rights and Primary Justice Programs

As an organization with strong ties to the sex workers community, Action Hope Malawi is a member of several networks focusing on sex workers and HIV – these include Malawi National Sex Workers Alliance, Global Network of Sex Work Projects, Malawi Network of AIDS Service Organisation, National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS, and Malawi Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

AIDS-Fondet and Action Hope Malawi

AIDS-Fondet and Action Hope Malawi first collaborated from 2017-18 on a project focused on empowering some 200 sex workers in Zomba district and help them get organized in community based organisations.

These organisations helped the sex workers initiate dialogue meetings with police, judicial institutions and health institutions and reduce harassment of sex workers and improve access to health care.

Long term collaboration between AIDS-Fondet and Action Hope Malawi was made possible with funding from Civil Society in Development, CISU, in Denmark between 2019-21 and the partnership has been made possible by further funding from 2022-2025 (more information at the bottom of the page).


Over the years and through the collaboration with AIDS-Fondet, Action Hope Malawi has achieved important political results. It has brought attention, and action, to issues such as public clinics selling HIV medicine on the black market, lack of testing, counselling and treatment in affected communities, and Action Hope Malawi played a very active role in repealing the Rogue and Vagabond Law in 2017 – a law that criminalized sex workers.

Action Hope Malawi has also been engaged in HIV prevention among men who have sex with men (MSM) for years and collaborates with AIDS-Fondet’s other Malawian partner, Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), which trains staff on the particular and unique issues that MSM are facing.

Stories from Action Hope Malawi

The context

Action Hope Malawi works in districts in Southern Malawi that all bear a heavy burden of HIV – as well as other related challenges linked to little or no knowledge about sexuality and reproduction, and the rights linked to the two.

These challenges in turn are exacerbated by poverty and lack of development – including limited resources to boost the livelihoods of people in the communities, limited and low access to health care services, and the violation of the rights of marginalized groups – especially sex workers.

Stigma and discrimination

The stigmatization and discrimination that sex workers experience have strong roots in cultural and social norms that penetrate all layers of society – these norms form the basis of moral justification of routine violations.

Most sex workers experience harassment, rape, blackmail, and other rights violations from clients as well as the police, bar owners, and health staff. Sex workers are often denied access to health services because of their work – and criminalization and lack of legal protection contribute further to marginalization and vulnerability.

Once you have engaged in sex work, it is very difficult to escape again as the judgement from your family, friends, and society at large is harsh, unrelenting, and unforgiving.

This leads to high levels of alcohol and drug use and causes stress, depression, and a variety of other mental health problems – and the low sense of self-worth leads to increased risky sexual behavior as well as reduced adherence to HIV treatment.

Funded by Civil Society in Development

AIDS-Fondet’s support for and collaboration with Action Hope Malawi is funded by Civil Society in Development (CISU) in Denmark – through the Civil Society Fund – from 2022 to 2025. It is the second phase of funding for a programme that began in 2019 and encompasses four organisations in Malawi and Uganda.

The Civil Society Fund is an independent support facility financed by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and run by CISU.

The ministry prescribes the general criteria for awarding grants based on the decisions of the Danish Parliament regarding Danish development cooperation.

The overall amount of the Civil Society Fund is appropriated annually in the Danish Finance Act (Finansloven).

Read more about CISU by clicking the logo.