Balaka’s high HIV infections rate worrisome

The Balaka District Aids Coordinating Committee has expressed concern over the district’s higher HIV prevalence rate.

The committee chairperson Harold Kachepatsonga said unlike the national rate which is at 10.6%, out of every 100 people in Balaka district 16 are infected making it 16% HIV prevalence rate.

Kachepatsonga was speaking on Saturday at MANICA ground in the eastern region of Balaka district during the district’s world Aids day commemoration organized by the district council to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

He observed that to mitigate HIV/AIDS scourge Malawians need to work together to fulfill the ‘getting to zero theme: zero new HIV infections, zero Aids related deaths and zero discrimination.

Zimpita with District Youth Officer Chilomo - photo by Sella Puman
Zimpita with District Youth Officer Chilomo – photo by Sella Puman

“It’s worryingly that people are not getting tested and defaulting treatment. We are not going to deal with this pandemic if we are not getting tested, and we won’t stop the deaths if we are defaulting treatment,” said Kachepatsonga adding that out of the 11,325 people who are on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) 2,637 are defaulting treatment.

He said despite different stakeholders implementing various activities to mitigate the impact of HIV, men are not taking part in trying to fight the battle.

“Culturally men were born superiors than women so that element alone is contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS. We need to work together to fight against HIV/AIDS, there’s no way we can win if men are not involved in the fight,” he said.

He added “some people are also failing to come to an open because of fear of being discriminated, this also pause as a great challenge to trying to reach out to such people”.

District Education Manager Valentino Zimpita who was the guest of honor said linking HIV/ AIDS issues to education is important because it will involve the youth who are the future.

“HIV/AIDS and nutrition as cross cutting issues have been given priority in the ministry of education to the extent that we have a complete directorate responsible for issues relating to HIV AIDS, nutrition and the like.

Zimputa bemoaned lack of men’s participation in these issues, the reason why the council decided to have the function at a place where men should get the message.

Currently Dream hospital and Balaka District Health Officer (DHO) is training people who are on ART to become expert clients to trace those who are defaulting treatment. The DHO also developed forms which are given to Health Surveillance Assistances (HSA) to help on the same.

Present at the function were community based organizations, faith based organizations and non-governmental organizations.

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