HIV SELF-TESTING : FREE TO KNOW YOUR STATUS

At 66 years old, Maman Koffi shows inexhaustible energy to work to improve the status of women around the San Pedro region of Côte d’Ivoire, which includes 10 administrative regions and 24 health districts. “I have been through a lot myself,” she explains. “I bore eight children, but lost four before their fifth year. I have experienced school pregnancies, home deliveries without medical assistance, and one of my children died of malaria because he was not taken to hospital but to the village. “Mama Koffi chose not to let her pain overwhelm her, but rather to enter midwifery school. “I chose to be a midwife to prevent this tragedy from happening to others, and I chose to work in the community to raise awareness and help these mothers. “After her initial training, Maman Koffi also graduated from the Ecole des Cadres in Côte d’Ivoire and then from a University Diploma in Mother and Child Health obtained at the René Descartes University Paris-V in 1996. At the beginning of her career, she and her colleagues used to contribute when resources were lacking to organize awareness sessions on women’s, mother and child health, but also on malaria and tuberculosis prevention, or obstetric fistula. In 1998, “with some of my sisters, I undertook the creation of the Association for the Management of the Bardot Delegated Municipal Maternity Hospital (AGEMAB), the only maternity hospital at that time in the large slum of Bardot, with the aim of relieving congestion at the Regional Hospital Center (CHR) and contributing to the reduction of maternal and infant mortality. »
With a view to optimizing the participation of the female community in the management of the maternity hospital, in 1999 she initiated the creation of the Association for the Promotion of Women’s, Mother, Child and Family Health (Aprosam), of which she is still Executive Director today. Also President of the Women’s Union of San Pedro, Côte d’Ivoire, Maman Koffi continues her daily community work which has enabled her to reach thousands of women, mothers and children and has recently integrated HIV self-testing kits, as a partner of the ATLAS Project, into her activities. “We have two mobile clinics to reach female sex workers (SWs) who are in the agro-industrial areas where the seasonal workers are working. Self-testing is very well received, especially because these sex workers did not come to the health centre for fear of being seen. Self-testing really complements our service offer. “Since October 2019, 980 people have been made aware of this complementary screening strategy, including 715 women. Around 50 people have learned their HIV status and have been able to receive treatment.
These community activities also include the development of income-generating activities, so that these women can become empowered and fight against the discrimination they face on a daily basis. “If one, two or three women get involved in this way, they save children, they save mothers,” says Maman Koffi while answering one of her incessant phone calls. A community resource, but also a sympathetic ear and a devoted friend, Maman Koffi has put her life at the service of women, so that they can free themselves from the barriers that patriarchy imposes on them. “Today I am a grandmother, twice. But above all I am the mother of all children in Côte d’Ivoire,” she concludes with a mischievous smile.

*The month of March was “Zero discrimination against women and girls” day (1st March) and International Women’s Rights Day (8th March). On these occasions, the ATLAS Project chose to highlight the work of Maman Koffi, who, after growing up in a disadvantaged environment, chose not to resign herself and to fight for the health of women, mothers and children.

Fighting ignorance*

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