Aids deaths declining in Malaw, fight far from over – Pres. Joyce Banda

Malawi President Dr Joyce Banda has noted that there is a sharp  decline in AIDS deaths in the country, saying she will  lead the fight against HIV/AIDS pandemic which has claimed lives and affects many people.

She guaranteed total support on Sunday in Blantyre, when she attended the up scaling of HIV and AIDS programs for the Joyce Banda Foundation International (JBFI).

“In Malawi over 7 million people have been tested for HIV and have received their results. We have also been able put almost half a million people on life prolonging medication and on July 1, 2013, just a few days from now, we will be completing the transitioning to a better treatment regime as recommended by World Health Organization,” said Banda.

“We are also putting all HIV positive pregnant women on treatment irrespective of their CD 4 count. This intervention which is called Option B+ has taken closer to an HIV free generation. The overall result of all our efforts is obvious. AIDS related deaths have declined significantly in this country and the HIV prevalence has also gone down to 10.6 percent,” said the Malawi leader.

President Banda with students from JBIF
President Banda with students from JBIF

Banda noted that there should be no complacency in ensuring an Aids free generation.

“Although we have registered all these achievements, I am aware that AIDS is still here. We are not yet out of the woods.

“As a woman and a mother, a human rights activist and an African leader, I know that women and young girls are bearing the brunt of the epidemic. This is why The Joyce Banda Foundation International has partnered with the National AIDS Commission to address AIDS in this vulnerable group.”

President Banda added: “We will focus on behavior change and orphans and vulnerable children. Other partners have also been supporting us on HIV/AIDS awareness creation while Market Women Activities in Development (MWAI) trainings have been supported under the Africa Women Development Fund.”

Banda also said the Youth Movement in Development (YOMODE) sensitization campaigns have also been one of the flagship programmes within the Foundation and disclosed the the JB Foundation will continue with its health system strengthening activities.

The Malawi leader then commended the establishment of the UNAIDS/Lancet Commission ” from AIDS to sustainable health” co-chaired by Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, African Union Commission Chairperson and Professor Peter Piot former Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“This commission will define what is required to accelerate our march towards the end of AIDS, an epidemic that has caused a lot of suffering in our world and respective communities.

“The commission will also help us utilize lessons learnt in our response to HIV and AIDS that can be used to promote health. The lessons include political will and leadership, investment, appropriate programming, solidarity and greater and meaningful involvement of people living with HIV and the role of the civil society,” said President Banda.

Malawi President commended cooperating  partners and donors who have been providing financial support in the national response to HIV and AIDS.

“Let me single out Global Fund which has so far provided US$722 million for the response to HIV and AIDS as well as TB and Malaria interventions in Malawi. Without this kind of support we could not have been able to put half a million people on free ARVs and all HIV positive pregnant women on treatment.

“I have, therefore, been asked by the Global Fund to Champion the Global Fund replenishment campaign with the aim of ensuring that The Global Fund achieves its US$15 billion target to control the three diseases,” she said.

“I also want to thank World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK government, United States Government, Clinton Health Access Initiative who provide all pediatric ARVs and the United Nations family for their continued support. Let me assure our funding and development partners that Malawi is committed to mobilizing domestic resources while ensuring efficient use of external funds. Already Malawi Government is contributing to the HIV Pool alongside other partners.”

At the function held at the College of Medicine Sports Complex, Women from Amayi a Mwai Organisation, Youth from Young Movement in Democracy and students from Msigalira Free Secondary School were present as witness beneficiaries of the JBFI to which they follow under.

Managing Director for the foundation Edith Arkridge said the organization feeds 15 000 children aged 3-6 in a day at community based childcare centres and is working with over 40 community based organisations.

National Aids Commission Board, Chairperson Mala Kum’bweza-Banda said the first female leader showed her obligation to the fight against HIV AIDS when she made herself minister responsible for Nutrition, HIV and AIDS upon ascendance to the highest office.

Kumbweza-Banda said the commission appreciates her personal effort in the fight against the pandemic and that the interventions she is undertaking will go a long way in supporting NAC.

Minister of Health, Catherine Gotani Hara said that the president’s appointment and recognition globally have not come on a silver platter, but the world has seen what she had achieved even before taking power.

The function followed President Banda’s recent appointment as champion for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malawi in Africa.—(Additional reporting Mana)

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