|Elias lives in a village in southern Mozambique. He is 29, he works the land and his home is a small cane structure. In late 2013, Elias began to feel weak and couldn't tend his fields.
In November Elias walked for hours to the nearest health center, where the nurse gave him a small bag of paracetamol. He then made the arduous trek back home. A visit to the health center one month later was equally fruitless.
By February 2014, Elias’ condition had deteriorated. His mother, worried by her son’s weight loss and chronic exhaustion, urged him to get an HIV test. “I felt as though I was watching him die before my eyes”, she says.
For a third time Elias walked the 18 km to the clinic, and this time asked for an HIV test. The nurse sent him home, saying it was the wrong day. Elias was terrified and reluctant to leave without an answer, yet too afraid to insist.
A few weeks later a neighbor suggested he approach Hortência, Namati’s health advocate. Hortência explained that the health center should offer HIV tests every day of the week, and she accompanied him to the clinic. They spoke with both the head nurse and the nurse who had refused Elias a test, explaining that his right to basic services had been violated. Elias received an HIV test that same day. The test came back positive. He began a daily regimen of antiretroviral therapy almost immediately. Three months after receiving his diagnosis, Elias’ strength had returned.
Hortência continues to monitor the clinic to ensure that Elias’ experience is not repeated. Namati empowers communities in Mozambique to hold their health systems accountable. Grassroots health advocates educate patients about health policy, improve clinic-community dialogue, and find solutions when people's health rights are violated.
Namati tracks data on every case the health advocates handle, and uses that information to propose systemic improvements to Mozambique's health system. We also learn from other organizations and share our methods - to foster a growing movement of grassroots advocates around the globe.
Put simply, we do what Hortência does; we walk with people so they can secure justice.
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