Malawi on track in the fight against HIV –official

Malawi is making remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDs, Mary Kum’bweza Banda, Chairperson of the Board of Commissioners for National AIDS Commission (NAC) said on Tuesday.

While opening the 2012 annual review meeting of the national response for HIV and AIDS under the theme; “innovative HIV preventions- towards zero new infections” in Lilongwe, Banda said for the past 27 years, the country has registered progress in the national response to HIV and AIDS.

She said in the year 2011 to 2012 alone, 1.2 million people came forward for HIV and testing and counseling. Further Banda said provision of antiretroviral therapy had been scaled up, such that by March this year, about 350,000 patients were initiated on antiretroviral therapy.

Banda also said there was increase in the number of in school and out school youth being exposed to life skills education which significantly impacted on the lives of the youth.

“Malawi has lived with HIV and AIDS for about 27 years now. During these years we have tried a number of interventions to reduce the number of new HIV infections as well as mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS. We have scaled up number of interventions some of which are aimed at curbing new infections,” explained Banda.

Banda however said to maintain the progress there was need for innovative approaches of halting the spread of HIV and AIDS among the communities.

She said, “Though our HIV prevalence and incidence are declining, the rates are still  high. This situation challenges us to think of new ways of preventing HIV transmission among our people.”

About the review meeting, the NAC Board Chairperson said delegates would debate on challenges encountered as well as endeavor to reduce new HIV infections.

Banda emphasized on the need to learn from successes and find ways of maintaining the gains, examine the challenges critically and think of innovative ways of handling those challenges.

Patrick Benny, Chairperson of the HIV and AIDS development partners group said as development partners they were impressed with the role government of Malawi was playing in the fight against the pandemic.

Benny pointed at voluntarily testing and counseling, voluntarily medical male circumcision and virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV as some of the efforts being made by the Malawi government.

“Nutritional support to people living with HIV and AIDS, provision of school bursaries for OVCs  and implementation of antiretroviral therapy are spoke of the programmes bearing fruits and as donors we are happy with this and we will continue working with the Malawi government to ensure that we reach the zero infection rate,” explained Benny.

He then described the review meeting as crucial as it will offer an opportunity to remind on the daunting challenges that HIV creates for Malawi at this critical and fragile point in the national response to HIV.

“With more than 50,000 Malawians becoming infected with HIV every year in and out, we really need to work together and ensure that we promote effective, innovative, high impact and result focused HIV prevention programming,” he said.

Rabson Shaba, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS said as legislators they were ready to lobby to government to provide more resources to HIV and AIDS activities.

“Our committee was initiated to champion HIV and AIDS activities in parliament, we promise to execute our duties and ensure that government pays the much needed support to the HIV and AIDS sector,” the parliamentarian said.

Every year, it is believed that 50,000 Malawian are becoming infected with HIV. Furthermore, an estimated number of 1 million Malawians are living with HIV and AIDs. However, to ensure that the country is in the right track NAC with the assistance from development partners carries a number of activities aimed at scaling down the spread of the virus.

The 2012 annual conference was organized to review the previous interventions and discuss new approaches in the fight against the pandemic.

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