National Association for People living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi (NAPHAM) started as a small support group of 4 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in 1993 led by a courageous woman, Winnie Chikafumbwa who defied all odds to publicly declare that she was living with HIV. At that material time, to be HIV positive was a death sentence. PLHIV were stigmatized and discriminated by everyone including close family members. Without medication, without support from family and friends, without any financial or material support from anywhere, and destined to an imminent death characterized by a long and dehumanizing illness, they embarked on a journey driven by passion and hope for a better life while living with HIV. That bold decision taken by the 4 NAPHAM pioneers has changed HIV and AIDS land scape forever in Malawi.
The other three were Dorothy Mluwaza, Jane Paranjeta, and Dickens Kolondo. There were three women and one man. The four mobilized three other people to join them and these were; Mrs. Munthali, Christopher Chisendera and Enock Mmbanga.
The founders established NAPHAM to create an enabling environment for PLHIVs to live positively. Their intention was for NAPHAM to provide a forum for PLHIV to share their experience and information and to find solace. The founders wanted to give HIV and AIDS a human face and change the public perception about HIV and AIDS.
NAPHAM was at first called National association for people living with AIDS (NAPHA). The organization became National Association for People living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi (NAPHAM) after the government of Malawi gave the founders a go ahead to use ‘Malawi’. The founders started meeting the same year under a mango tree at Bwaila Hospital then called Bottom Hospital in August 1993. From there, the founders started meeting in area 10 in a well- wisher’s house who voluntarily surrendered his house to be used as a meeting place for NAPHAM members. Later the founders started meeting in Mipondo house in Old Town, Lilongwe in a room where MACRO then LACE (Lilongwe AIDS and counselling Centre) gave them to be meeting once a week. The members were meeting every Sunday. The founders realized that they needed to be meeting more regularly so that they could come up with programmes, so they moved to Winnie’s house in Area 15 in Lilongwe.
NAPHAM got its first funding from Action Aid International in 1994 and started renting a room in Mipondo House. One full time employee (office assistant), Mr Chisendera was recruited the same year in 1994. The organization got a second funding in 1995 from AIDS FONDS. This funding enabled the organization to recruit more staff members and rent a bigger place. The organization therefore moved to Chilinde in 1995 where it secured a bigger infrastructure for rent. NAPHAM’s first activities were group therapy (1993), Kitchen gardens (1994), HIV education (1996) and IGAs (drug revolving fund) in 1998.
From that small group of 4 PLHIV, meeting under a mango tree outside Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe, today the group has grown into a formidable organization called NAPHAM. It now registered with the government under the Incorporation Act. It is the largest and oldest network of PLHIV. It has led to the birth of many PLHIV organizations in the country. NAPHAM currently has a membership of over 86,000 PLHIV in over 1,600 support groups. It has operational presence in all 28 districts including Likoma. It has well defined governance structure with a Board of Trustees.