Cecilia Lapani holding her five-year-old daughter. Photo: Zodidi Dano
Cecilia Lapani holding her five-year-old daughter. Photo: Zodidi Dano

’I had given up on life’, says Malawian mother after she contracted HIV and passed it onto her daughter

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Jun 17, 2021

Share this article:

FROM living in a one-room home with no roofing or door, and where dogs occasionally entering at night while the family are asleep, to being given a two-bedroom house with a kitchen and beds, a struggling family in the Zomba District have only good words to say about the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) initiative.

The Lapani family have been on the MSF Chiradzulu HIV/TB project since 2018.

The mother and father are living with HIV and of their six children, their five-year-old daughter also contracted the virus.

Zomba is about 43km from Chiradzulu where the nearest health facilities are located.

The mother, Cecilia Lapani , 42, was a patient on the advanced care projects which is aimed at assisting those with high viral loads that further compromise their immune system. The father, Biziwick Lapani, 45, has been stable.

Their five-year-old daughter, on the other hand, has had a viral load that ranked in the millions since 2018. It recently dropped to 803 000 in March this year. When the viral load is above 1 000, patients are placed on the advance care programme.

Social worker Tamika Munyenyembe showing the one-rooom home the Lapanis used to live in. Photo Zodidi Dano

The child’s high viral load is due to her parents not administering the antiretroviral treatment properly, despite the dad being able to administer his own treatment.

Social worker Tamika Munyenyembe said the child was visibly sick and suffered from rashes on her face.

Munyenyembe said the responsibility of administering treatment to the child was solely the mother’s. She said it was only after she had threatened to report the matter to child services that the father committed himself to assisting the mother.

“In Malawi, the child is the mother’s responsibility. Everything that has to do with the child must be taken care of by the mother and our law recognises that, thus allowing the fathers to neglect their parental duties.

Video: Zodidi Dano

The five-year-old child, who clung onto her mother, appeared stunted. She looked like a three-year-old.

Her mother, who appeared shy as she also soothed her daughter, said there was a point in her life when she had given up.

In 2019, Cecilia contracted meningitis and was admitted to hospital. MSF paid her medical and transportation costs.

“Considering our living conditions. I had no hope that I would still be alive today.,” the soft-spoken woman said.

Biziwick said MSF had changed their lives.

The Lapani family grow their own vegetables as means of survival. Pictured are buffalo beans. Photo: Zodidi Dano

“We are happy. We wouldn't have been able to afford this house. Us being gifted this house has also motivated people in the village to go get tested at the hospital. Before, people used to laugh behind our backs and looked down upon us. Now they ask us how we got the house.”

Share this article: