Malawi on Tuesday commemorated World Aids Day with President Lazarus Chakwera stressing his government’s commitment in the fight against HIV and Aids by staying the course to achieve zero infection rate by 2030 amidst Coronavirus (Covid-19).
The World Aids Day and International Candlelight Memorial event was held at Mitundu Primary School Ground in the area of Senior Chief Chiseka in Lilongwe.
The event attracted prominent figures including the First Lady Monica Chakwera, Vice President Saulos Chilima, Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Hara and the global community, among others.
Chakwera toured selected pavilions to appreciate efforts being made in fighting HIV/AIDS before proceeding to the platform where he led the candle lighting, an activity done to remember lives claimed by the pandemic and give hope to those living with the disease.
In his speech, President Chakwera renewed calls for the government to honour an existing commitment to eliminate HIV transmission in the country by 2030.
Medical science has already made massive headway in tackling the virus. For most people, an HIV diagnosis in the 1980s was an “automatic death sentence”. Four decades later, medical experts say life expectancy averages for HIV-positive patients are “near normal”.
In 2015, Malawi government subscribed and committed to the UNAIDS so-called 90:90:90 targets for 90% of people with HIV to be diagnosed, 90% of diagnosed people to be receiving treatment, and 90% of people on treatment to have an undetectable viral load by 2030.
“Malawi has registered success on these targets. As of June, 2020, we were already moving towards achieving the 95:95:95 targets set for the year 2025,”said President Chakwera, adding “because currently, 91 percent of people know their HIV status, 87 percent are on treatment and 94 percent have viral suppression.”
Chakwera said moving forward, his administration will continue advocating for better and optimized treatment for people living with HIV.
He said it is through these deliberate strides that the termination of HIV and AIDS by 2030 as a global-viewed threat is an achievable goal but stakeholders cannot afford to be relaxed.
“I am sad to learn that new HIV infections are increasing amongst adolescent girls and young women. My administration is, therefore, committed to protect the lives of adolescent girls, young women as well as boys and men. I will make sure that the policies are in place to empower adolescents through increased access to various life-skills programs and education.
“I believe it is important for us to invigorate HIV prevention effort and thus track implementation of strategic interventions to stop the spread. It is for this reason that I have taken advantage of this commemoration to launch the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan which will run from 2020 to 2025. This is an overall guiding framework to fight HIV and AIDS for the next five years,” Chakwera said.
He then urged all stakeholders to collaborate and support the implementation of the Plan while on the same time fighting other life-threatening pandemics like Covid-19.
Minister of Health, Khumbidze Chiponda, said government remains vigilant in fighting the pandemic despite the wake of Covid-19 which has drawn much attention and thanked all stakeholders who support the fight.
“As a ministry, we make sure that the efforts we put in combating Covid-19 are not jeopardizing that which we are investing in fighting HIV and AIDS. We have sufficient drugs in the hospitals to carter for everyone living with HIV and we make sure that they all receive their prescription.
“We therefore wish to register our sincere gratitude to all stakeholders especially the United Nations family for their continued financial and technical support rendered to our country. We have made remarkable strides thanks to their support and indeed we are winning the battle,” she said.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres, said there is need to continue pointing on the path of solidarity and sharing responsibility in fighting HIV and AIDS.
“Malawi is indeed beyond targets. There is so much progress being made in response against the pandemic but the war is still not over. There are 33, 000 new HIV infections annually in Malawi and the country aims for less than 11, 000 infections yearly. So this development indeed calls for collective effort in fighting the pandemic. The responsibility is not only for the government,” said Torres.
This year’s commemoration was globally held under the theme ‘Global Solidarity and Shared Responsibility as we remember to take action and live beyond HIV.’
According to Unicef, in Malawi, Aids continues to infect 10 000 people a year and around 46 percent of new infections occur among young people aged 15 to 24 whereas an estimated population of 89 000 children under the age of 15 are living with the disease.
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