Malawi women living with HIV/Aids petition Speaker: On access to treatment and drugs

The Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDs in Malawi (COWLHA) and the Pan AFRICA Positive Women Coalition (PAPWC) on Monday presented a petition to the Speaker of National Assembly, Henry Chimunthu Banda  for government to scale up efforts on access to HIV and AIDS treatment, in particular for women and children who are more vulnerable.

In a letter which was also copied to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), the women would like to see government putting more resources in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) activities in the country, as it has been discovered that the women living with HIV and Aids are least funded, yet women carry the highest burden of HIV and AIDs.

“There is need for intensifying the efforts to protect more Malawian women, African women and adolescent girls from HIV infection.

Robert Ngaiyaye and Speaker Chimunthu Banda at the conference.-Photo by Patricia Masinga/Nyasa Times

“When a woman is sick, the effects are severe as they affect the whole wellbeing of the family at large.She no longer becomes productive in the family and this retards the family from taking part in economic endeavours, which eventually lead to poverty, as they will not be able to access food security which is also an important factor to support the nutritional needs.

“As Women Living with HIV, we are now aware that it is time we took the challenge ourselves to come up with action and not depend on other people or organizations to do it for us,” says the petition.

It further explains the need for government to ensure that there is adequate funding for organizing programmes that aim at empowering women living with HIV to be able to make informed decisions.

The petition recognises the important role donor partners play in assisting African governments with financial aid to fight challenges being faced by women living with HIV.

On the ARVs being given to people living HIV, the letter suggests that it would be ideal for government to solicit money to acquire the latest ARVs, saying the ARVs that are currently in the country deform people living with HIV.

COWLHA, PAPWC are civil society advocacy organizations working to promote the rights of women and girls living with HIV including those with disabilities in Malawi and the African continent considering the feminization of the epidemic on the continent, and disproportionate number of women and girls who are HIV infected and at risk of infection.

Executive director for the Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association (MIAA), Robert Ngaiyaye, said: “ This will be an opportunity for government to take the  call to revisit policies that touch on health, in particular on HIV and AIDS, seriously and pass some favourable policies. We are hopeful this positive gesture will be welcomed.”

Speaker Chimunthu-Banda, who was at the prayers on Sunday as guest of honour as the world’s faith leaders prayed for the international conference on the Global Race to Save Lives from HIV and AIDS which will officially be opened by Vice President Khumbo Kachali this Wednesday, said it was time the faith community and the political realm came together to fight the alliance of HIV and AIDS and malaria that was killing people.

“Just like AIDS and malaria have formed an alliance against us, let us formulate a stronger alliance, the faith community and the politicians or governments, to fight the scourge. Our acceptance of the views that will come out opf your deliberations will be channeled to all the countries participating and not participating since we do have those communication links. Be assured that your cause is indeed a global one and it is supported by all our governments,” he said.

Sunday faith leaders from across the continents met for prayers ahead of the conference led by the Malawi Council of Churches and attended by the heads of the National AIDS Commission (NAC), World Council of Churches (WCC), and UNAIDS among many others.

Participants at the conference that ends Friday includes those from Uganda led by Rev. Canon Dr. Gideon Byamugisha who is also the Christian Aid goodwill ambassador on HIV and AIDS issues, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Indonesia, West America, Rwanda and many other countries including war-torn Somalia.

The event is also been attended by varying faiths including the Bahai and the Rastafarianism, part from Christian churches and Muslim sects.—( Additional reporting by Hilda Kamputa, Malawi News Agency)

Bishop Bvumbwe and Caono Dr. Gideon Byamugisha
Rev. Bossman Chitheka and Atchbishop Emeritus Benard Malango

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