MANGOCHI--Malawi on Monday launched a week-long nationwide campaign to have a quarter of a million people tested for HIV, as health authorities said this was a crucial intervention in one of the world’s affected countries.
“The campaign been launched on a broad and large scale to allow all Malawians to know their status and become eligible to benefit from rapidly expanding opportunities for prevention, treatment, care and support services,” deputy health minister Halima Daudi said at the launch, in this prime touristic district and where HIV infection ranks high.
Officially, 10 percent of the 14 million citizens are infected with HIV, and Daudi said the country had prioritized HIV and AIDS intervention.
“The benefits of knowing one’s sero-status are greater than any other point in time since the epidemic was discovered in Malawi in 1985,” she said.
Some 810 sites have been created for this purpose throughout the poor nation, which has 28 districts.
Daudi the week would give Malawians “a chance to access anti-retroviral therapy if found HIV positive.”
Malawi has so far enrolled 300,000 people for free AIDS drugs, from 5,000 in 2004.
Daudi, who led politicians and officials to have their blood tested although they didn’t disclose their status, said emphasis would be on the youth and couples to “reduce risky behaviors that may increase the risk of HIV infection.”
The youth comprise half of the country’s population.
UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Roberto Campos said HTC was an important dimension in HIV prevention because it consolidates the national HIV and AIDS response.
“Malawi is currently doing very well in HIV prevention and impact mitigation. Administering ART’s to over 300, 000 people are a significant step in the fight,” he said.
Health officials say Malawi records over 60,000 new HIV infections every month.
“The biggest challenge at present is to sustain the national response. We need to mobilize the youth and couples to remove the fear that Aids is not a death sentence,” he added.
The World Bank last month unveiled a $110-million package for roads, farms and health care, with much of this money going to fight HIV.
Sandra Bloemenkamp, World Bank country manager for Malawi said although the country was making progress in reducing adult HIV prevalence, “at 10.6 percent, it still remains one of the highest in the world."
She said the project will help the priority objective of reducing the number of new HIV infections."
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.