The National Aids Commission (NAC) has called upon the Malawi Police Service (MPS) to take a leading role in the dissemination of the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Management) Act 2018 in the country.
NAC Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Andrew Gonani, made the appeal in Lilongwe on Tuesday during the dissemination meeting of the Act to the MPS.
Gonani said NAC saw it important to engage and enlighten the police officers on the act considering that, the provisions in the act give police officers the mandate to enforce the Act.
“For example the act has prohibited a number of vices which our organization and the police have to enforce such as dissemination of misleading information on HIV and AIDS and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS”, said Gonani.
On the HIV prevalence status in Malawi, Dr Gonani said currently the country has an HIV prevalence of 8.9%, meaning that about 946,000 adults are living with HIV or nine people out of every 100 adults are living with HIV in the country.
Dr Gonani, however, said the country is doing well in the fight against the disease, saying for instance the country has managed to reduce the number of new infections, since 2010 when there were around 56 thousand new infections per year, but as of last year the country had 20 thousand new infections, which is a tremendous reduction.
He therefore expressed optimism that the country will meet the HIV eradication by 2030 as a public health threat because, as it stands now 88% of people living with HIV know their status, out of those who know their status, 98% are on ARVs and of the people who are on ARVs, 97% are virally suppressed.
On her part, Malawi Law Commission chief law informal officer Sphiwe Phoya Mchenga said, among others the HIV and AIDS act, stipulates that there is no compulsory testing except in exceptional circumstances which include; where the court orders a specific that a person should be tested.
“For example in cases of rape, defilement, the suspect is usually tested to ensure that the victim is protected”, she said.
In terms of penalties, Phoya Mchenga said the penalties differ depending on the offence committed according to what is prohibited and stipulated in the Act.
She said, for example, the issues of the 18 harmful cultural practices as specified in the first schedule of the act, have specific offences. Where a person found guilty of conducting any of the harmful cultural practices specified in the first schedule which include; Fisi, chimanamaye, Hlazi, kulowa kufa, is reliable for a fine of 5 million kwacha and 5 years imprisonment.
In her remarks, Deputy Inspector General of Police Merlyne Yolamu applauded NAC for organizing the meeting with the police officers, arguing that, it will help them to execute their duties according to what is stipulated in the act, claiming that sometimes police officers fail to penetrate into cases related to HIV and AIDS due to lack of guidance.
Yolamu then encouraged the police officers who attended the meeting, to share the information to their fellow officers who did not attend the meeting for good performance of their duties related to the act, before describing the meeting as timely.
She warned perpetrators of harmful cultural practices that the law will take course once found, reiterating that the harmful cultural practices fuel the further spread of HIV and AIDS.
The meeting brought together police officers, doctors and officials from NAC
NAC’s mission is to provide technical guidance, leadership and coordinate the national response to HIV and AIDS.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :