Malawi launches Free to Shine initiative to enhance HIV and AIDS fight

First Lady Prof. Gertrude Mutharika (L) interacting with the UN Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres at the campaign launch

24th November 2018:

Malawi has launched a Free to Shine initiative to fight HIV and AIDS through increased reduction of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Malawi’s First Lady Prof. Gertrude Mutharika launched the initiative in Lilongwe on 31 October 2018, saying the initiative will help the country reduce its mother-to-child HIV transmissions to less than four percent before end of 2019.

“We have a collective responsibility to make sure that our girls and boys shine by giving them an HIV-free life,” said Mutharika. “Our children must shine through provision of paediatric AIDS treatment, care and support.”

She commended Development Partners, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNAIDS for supporting the national HIV and AIDS response.

Mutharika said she was pleased to note that over 80 percent of people living with HIV in Malawi are on treatment and that the country is on track to reach UNAIDS’ 90:90:90 fast-track targets, which aim to ensure that 90 percent of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90 percent of people with diagnosed HIV infection are on treatment, and 90 percent of people on treatment have viral suppression by 2020.

United Nations Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres said the initiative aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its vision of ending childhood AIDS in Africa by 2030 and keep mothers alive on treatment, mirrors that of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Ending mother to child transmission of HIV, and ensuring all pregnant women living with HIV and all children living with HIV are active on treatment will push Malawi forward toward achieving SDG 3 on Good Health and Wellbeing,” said Torres.

“Ensuring that all girls and young women have access to quality reproductive health education and services, including HIV prevention services will also be key to achieving SDG 5 on Gender Equality.”

Torres said Malawi has been a role model in the global HIV and AIDS response as it was the first country to pilot the Option B+ strategy to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, which has now become a best practice globally.

The initiative in Malawi is built on partnerships between the First Lady, Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA), the African Union, the UN, the Civil Society and the private sector.

The initiative is part of OAFLA’s efforts to end paediatric AIDS in Africa by 2020. This initiative was established on the side-lines of the African Union Summit in January 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At the event to launch the initiative, two key documents were also launched. The first document, a Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) Joint Review Synthesis Report, provides detailed analysis of the challenges that Malawi needs to address to ensure effective reproductive and maternal health programmes, and reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.

The second document, Roadmap for Accelerating Children and Adolescent HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health Services in Malawi – 2018-2022, provides guidance on critical interventions for an AIDS free generation in Malawi.