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Promoting exclusive breastfeeding among HIV positive women in rural Malawi

Dr Agatha Kapatuka Bula is a Malawian Registered Nurse/Midwife who was awarded her PhD in Midwifery from City University London, School of Health Sciences in 2016. She joined City University in 2010 after being awarded a Studentship.

Agatha also received financial support from Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research programme and the Dora Opoku scholarship to complete her PhD Programme. Dora was the head of the Midwifery department at City for many years and her family created this scholarship in memory of her contribution to midwifery and women’s health. Agatha’s thesis investigated how community-based interventions using peer counsellors would help to promote exclusive breastfeeding among HIV positive women in rural Malawi and reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Her plan is to use the experience and expertise gained from City University London to help Malawi in reducing HIV transmission among the general population.

After completing her studies at City, Agatha returned to Malawi where she was offered a job as a Strategic Information Advisor for LINKAGES programme with her previous employer UNC Project in collaboration with FHI 360. UNC is a partnership between the University of North Carolina and the Malawi Ministry of Health to carry out research, care, and training programs in the capital city of Lilongwe and in some districts within the central region of Malawi.

Her current work involves working with key populations in Malawi in order to provide the National estimation of female sex workers and men who have sex with men in Malawi. Her responsibilities as a Co-Principal Investigator include:

  • conducting a literature review and mapping exercise for key populations (sex workers and men who have sex with men) in Malawi to provide evidence for programme purposes
  • developing and submitting a research protocol for ethics review and conducting consultative meetings with key stakeholders.

As a public health practitioner her plan is to continue working as a researcher and collaborate with the Malawi Government, National AIDS Commission and other partners to develop and implement programmes targeting key populations; especially young female sex workers with limited access to health care services including sexual and reproductive health services, HIV prevention, care and treatment and safe motherhood. This is one strategy to help Malawi to reach the 90-90-90 treatment goal as stipulated in the 2016 - 2020 National HIV Strategic Plan for Malawi. She is also thinking about writing and managing her own research proposals targeting key populations and looking at the welfare of children born from sex workers especially those who are HIV positive. Agatha further commented:

My last hope is to be a role model and become a useful resource person in Malawi as a professional in Nursing and midwifery. Many nurses in Malawi do not have opportunities to go further with their studies because of lack of funding. I hope to be able to help make a difference in nursing career by motivating my fellow nurses to pursue further studies so that their dream may come true as other nurses/midwives in the world.”

Subject: Midwifery

Academic: Dr Agatha Bula

Research Centre: Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research