A market for services in Malawi

Twice a week, some 8,000 young male and female vendors descend on Mitundu Market, 38km from Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe. Some female vendors offer sex in exchange for lower prices, free transport and accommodation. Many young men spend small profits on drinks and sex.

A survey of 161 vendors revealed that:

  • 20% had contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • 50% had had sex without a condom on at least one occasion
  • 30% had had sex with a sex worker, but only 13% of these had used a condom

Negative attitudes and long waiting times discouraged the vendors from using sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) at the nearby hospital. With HIV prevalence in Malawi running at 15% for those aged 15 to 49, the Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) joined with the Japan Trust Fund (JTF) to deliver information and services to vendors and the surrounding community.

Liaising with District and City Assembly Authorities, traditional Chiefs, Members of Parliament and the District Health Office, the 'Vending with Hope' initiative was formed. In just 10 months, Vending with Hope provided voluntary counselling and testing to 1,000 clients, and STI treatment to 112 individuals. It served 4,000 vendors, initiated 60 peer group discussions and trained 10 peer educators.

Watch the video footage for an insight into the market for JTF’s services in Mitundu.