Visit Malawi with Chancellor Thorp - virtually

Travel with Chancellor Thorp as he makes his way through Malawi, meet some of our UNC colleagues based there, and see where they work with an interactive customized Google map.

A UNC Project-Malawi Google Map is online here:

UNC has been working in Malawi since 1990. Like much of sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi faces significant health care-related challenges. The country only has 2 physicians per 100,000 people, and the average life expectancy is 39 years. High rates of HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases strain the country’s limited health-care infrastructure.

Built on long-term relationships by individual researchers with a passion for their work, UNC Project-Malawi is a growing center of excellence that saves lives and improves health in Malawi.

Read an excerpt from Chancellor Holden Thorp’s blog, online at

What a day in Lilongwe. We started at the Bwaila antenatal clinic. This is where UNC led a famous study called BAN, which determined the best course for treating HIV-positive mothers to prevent transmission of the virus to their children. Thanks to the work of our researchers, the rate of transmission of HIV to babies has dropped dramatically. Also, far more mothers and fathers are being tested and treated, which has also contributed to a drop in the percentage of HIV-positive mothers from above 20% to 10% since the study was started.

At the beginning of the day, the pregnant women and the mothers with newborn babies come to Bwaila. Because it’s so hard to get tests done on the fathers, if they bring the father, they go to the front of the line. The rest go into a large waiting area where they are led in song by the nurses. The songs have lyrics about living with HIV set to tunes of well-known Malawian folk songs. The lyrics say things like “get the father tested” and “fight the virus to make our nation strong.” Here is the audio I recorded of the women and children singing.

I get chills listening to this. Hearing it in person is unbelievable.  UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health has a video showing the same location.

The head nurse, known as the matron, took us inside her office to sign the guest book. I asked her what was the best part of her work, and she said it was seeing how happy the mothers were when they found out that — thanks to following the instructions they got at the clinic — their baby did not have HIV.

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