Harassment and societal discrimination still preventing gays and other minority groups from accessing HIV and Aids treatment and care

National Aids Commission (NAC) has cited police harassment, societal discrimination, and insufficient community-based services as significant barriers preventing key populations from accessing care and services for HIV and Aids-related illnesses.

NAC Director of Programmes, Chimwemwe Mablekisi, defined key populations as gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; people who inject drugs; sex workers; and transgender people who face high level of violence in Malawi and across the world.

Mablekisi–Key populations are often difficult to reach for critical testing, care, and treatment services–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Speaking at the opening of the frontline police officers training of trainer of trainers (ToT) on provision of key population friendly services, Mablekisi said key populations remain the most affected by HIV and Aids in Malawi because of fear of suffering violence.

NAC has organized the training in partnership with FHI360 to encourage policing practices among law enforcement officers that promote justice, improve the HIV response, and prevent, mitigate, and respond to violence, including for members of the key populations, in districts across Malawi.

Mablekisi said because of the cited barriers, key populations are often difficult to reach for critical testing, care, and treatment services.

Mablekisi (3rd from left) posing for photo with police officers participating in the ToT training at Chikho Hotel in Mponela–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

“They face a higher risk of acquiring HIV and have higher risk for onward transmission and yet their access to services is limited. Their rates of accessing safe, effective, and quality HIV services are extremely low, while stigma and discrimination, including gender-based violence, are high compared to the general population,” she said.

Mablekisi said since the police service plays a critical role in the protection and promotion of the public health, it can equally play a critical role in addressing challenges key populations are facing to access healthcare services.

She described the police as a key partner that may help to implement the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 and the UN Political Declaration’s 2025 Commitments in order to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

“Police service is considered as one the frontline public health responders in many public health issues such as domestic violence; drug and alcohol abuse and infectious disease outbreaks (including HIV). Law enforcement, especially through the activities of police service, puts the service in a unique critical position in responding to barriers when implementing and scaling up prevention activities for the key populations. The Trainer of Trainers training of frontline police officers on provision of key population friendly services is therefore crucial as it will help to build a pool of competent officers who can help in addressing stigma, discrimination, and violence against the key populations,” said Mablekisi.

On a positive note, the NAC Director of Programmes observed that despite the challenges facing the key population, Malawi is making a good progress in the fight against HIV.

She said using the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 as an overarching goal, the country is working to achieve the UNAIDS 2025 95:95:95 Aids treatment targets, which provide a pathway by which a person is tested, linked, and retained in HIV care and initiates and adheres to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to achieve viral load suppression.

Mablekisi said it is encouraging to note that Malawi is making remarkable progress in achieving these ambitious targets. By June 2021, a total of 955,435 HIV-positive people had been diagnosed with HIV, with 878,232 taking ARVs and 825,538 had their viral load suppressed.

“The progress represents a 97:92:94 performance in respect to the 95:95:95 treatment targets. As a country, we have also managed to reduce the number of new HIV infections per year from 56,000 in 2010 to 19,000 in 2021 and the number of AIDS-related deaths from 32,000 in 2010 to 10,800 in 2021. This is no mean achievement by all standards,” she said.

In his remarks, FHI360 Country Representative and Project Director for the Epic Project, Dr Ngonidzashe Madidi, commended the participating police officers for availing themselves for the training.

Madidi expressed optimism that the training will go a long way in addressing the challenges key populations are facing to access HIV and Aids-related care.

The two-day training is expected to address law enforcement officers’ occupational and personal HIV risks and supports knowledge building in HIV prevention, care, and treatment efforts.

Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :

Sharing is caring!

Follow us in Twitter
Read previous post:
Nsanje chiefs push for speedy resumption of Bangula-Marka Railway Rehab Project

Traditional leaders in Nsanje have made impassioned appeal to the Tonse Alliance government to expedite the process of awarding a...