State-of-the-Art Facility, State-of-the-Art Care

A box on the back of a bike reads UNC Project Lilongwe, MalawiA generous gift from Hyman ’76 and Marietta ’77 Bielsky will fund a new clinic in Malawi for reproductive health and sexually transmitted infections. The new clinic will replace a 50-year-old infrastructure for sexually transmitted disease research and care, the place where UNC’s global health work began.

When Professor Irving Hoffman, PA, MPH, director of international operations for the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID), and international director of UNC Project Malawi, called up his long-time friend Hyman Bielsky in Sunny Isles, Florida, he wanted to talk about fundraising for a new reproductive health clinic in Malawi. He hoped he might tap into Hyman’s business expertise to get ideas about fundraising. He never imagined Hyman and his wife Marietta would donate all of the funding needed — full stop.

“We were sitting in our living room, looking at the clinic proposal Irving sent us, and we immediately understood the good the clinic would deliver,” said Hyman. “In this world, there are not many things that are black and white like that.”

Built in the 1970s, the current clinic within Bwaila District Hospital sits at the heart of a busy town center in Lilongwe, in the capital city of Malawi.

Today, it’s the go-to clinic for many people seeking public health services. It’s also the only specialized sexually transmitted infection clinic in the capital, serving 15,000 clients a year, of whom 60% are women and 25% are living with HIV. The facility provides a litany of services, treatment and diagnoses — all in a crumbling building without ventilation, that leaks during the rainy season.

UNC Malawi Country Director Innocent Mofolo says the new facility will provide a safe environment for patients, especially needed with COVID and other emerging diseases, as well as staff, who are often overwhelmed by the number of patients and limited space.

“Receiving care in a good environment is therapeutic in itself,” Mofolo said. “This will be a state-of-the-art site for research, education, care and treatment, and most of all, healing.”

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