An HIV positive couple of seven children survives on Moringa Oleifera, a tree which is locally known as Chammwamba or Nsangowa. The tree mostly grows in hot areas of Malawi including Chikhwawa, Nsanje and Mangochi.
Despite being tested HIV positive in 2004, 44 year old Owen Gale looks very healthy and happy. His family members, including his wife who is also HIV positive have never seriously been attacked by other diseases since 2006, the year they started taking ARVs.
From Savieri Village, Traditional Authority Malemia in Nsanje, Gale recalls that his CD4 count went as low as 200. He hated the medical personnel who advised him that he could not start ARTs immediately. The doctors’ recommendations made him think there was no hope for his life especially that he lived behind poverty line.
Gale confesses that he was not willing to go for HIV testing and counseling (HTC) until in 2005 when he fell seriously ill. His major setback to going for HTC was his status; “I thought only rich people could manage the pandemic because I heard people saying that the ARVs, which were not free until some eight years back, were very expensive.”
He claims he started the medication when he was too weak and thin.
“I never wanted to go for HTC until 2005 when I tested TB active, I became sick and was very weak when they tested me, and upon hearing my status, I thought I could not survive,” he recollects.
Gale’s family was confused when Naomi, the wife was also tested positive, especially when medical experts advised them to take all six food groups. The couple’s confidence faded away knowing that they could not withstand such a demand. How could someone who survived on a meal or two per day surpass such demand?
The petition for living positively became extremely unbearable when the medical experts told the family to use condoms whenever they wanted to have sex. Until then, Gale had never used a condom and wondered why and how he could use it with his wife.
The desire for more children, despite having six of them gave him headache; “I had just divorced my wife for Naomi, my beautiful wife whom I had paid a bride price for, it was a must for us to bear fruits,” explains Gale.
It was when Gale saw that most of the people who were living positively in his community died that he started paying attention to medical advice. They were encouraged to use ginger and Moringa but he opted for the later because it was found locally.
Little by little, his family accepted the status and started associating with others through Tikondane support group where all the members were HIV positive and shared their stories.
The support group had success stories on Moringa which they adopted and started experiencing change within a week.
The survivor says he uses Moringa to overcome sicknesses like pneumonia, stomachache and headache. Gale explains that his family uses every part of the tree be it roots, leaves, seeds and flowers to boost immunity against various diseases. While the leaves can be taken as both relish and medication, the rest are consumed as drugs.
Gale’s desire for a child was accomplished in 2007 upon hearing of prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) service which is offered in hospitals. “We made sure we followed every advice such that we saw a ‘miracle’ of HIV+ couple conceiving an HIV negative child happening to us.
Naomi conceived a healthy looking HIV negative baby Patricia in July 2008 and the parents say she has never been seriously attacked by illnesses as compared to her siblings who were born when the parents were HIV negative.
While Gale applauds government for the support it renders to HIV positive population in the country, another HIV positive woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity wonders how the government would manage an environment without bacterium when they know that it boosts immunity to those on ARVs.
Gale proudly says he takes the same Moringa with ARVs when bacterium is not available and it works for him.
On the other hand, the concerned woman who hails from T/A Ndamera in the same district says government has to make sure that bacterium is always available so that it does not lose almost all the affected population.
ART Clinician at Nsanje District Hospital, John Alimoni says there was at one time short supply of bacterium at the district hospital but they sensitized their clients to take the ARVs despite shortage of the drug.
“Bacterium is used as a prophylaxis; thus it prevents our clients from developing adaptable infections hence there is no reason to default due to inadequate supply of the drug,” said the Senior Medical Assistant.
He however, points out that the access to treatment has enormously improved at Nsanje District Hospital with enough space for both staff and clients which entertains privacy.
“We also have full time clerk, technician and other staff who also have adequate supply of medication like ARVs and bacterium,” said Alimoni.
The ART clinician also encourages pregnant women to know their status so that they follow PMCTC service which he says has totally reduced the transmission to zero for mothers who go for antenatal test in time and follow medical precautions.
He proudly said that Ministry of Health will continue sensitizing the affected and infected to take the medication as prescribed by remedial experts for zero HIV related deaths, zero new infections and zero discrimination.
The medical expert gives Gale a standing ovation for being in groups and by having a desire to learn more despite living in a community, “Many poor people think that it is impossible for them to survive but Gale has a different approach towards the pandemic.”
Gale’s survival shows that every individual who lives with HIV and AIDS has the potential to survive, it only depends on a tactic they use for survival as he puts it; “Practice whatever the experts tell you to do for diet has little to do with money.”
The Moringa tree has tremendously been used in the Northern India and some parts of Africa as multipurpose and miraculous as indicated on naturalnews.com; “Nutritious Moringa plays an important role in breastfeeding mothers, purifying water, in diabetes, cancer and it is also a natural source of food.”
Moringa is a plant that grows even without maximum care but it is nutritious enough such that someone could depend on it to boost his or her immunity. This shows that anyone whether rich or poor has the chance to survive the HIV pandemic, through a simple tree that grows at a backyard.
Studies have shown Moringa Oleifera leaves to be an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and protein: perhaps more than any other tropical vegetable.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :