Malawi needs to up AIDS fight despite progress

Dr. Mwansambo at the Candlelight Memorial ceremony.

Despite achieving important progress in fighting HIV and AIDS, Malawi needs to seize available opportunities to reduce new infections and address the pandemic, including through implementation of the National HIV Prevention Strategy, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has said.

Speaking at the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial ceremony in Zomba on 21st July, UNAIDS Strategic Information Advisor, Masauso Nzima, said redoubling of efforts is needed to reduce new HIV infections in Malawi, currently standing at 36,000 every year.

“Malawi has made commendable progress in the fight against the HIV,” said Nzima. “In particular, many people that are infected with HIV are now on treatment. However, there are a number of areas that require attention, including treatment for children, reduction of new HIV infections, particularly among adolescents and young people, and reduction of AIDS related deaths.”

He also said stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and harmful gender norms are among factors that continue to frustrate the fight against HIV and AIDS in Malawi.

“We have several opportunities to make a difference. Malawi has revised the National HIV Prevention Strategy which must now be implemented. Malawi will, in a few months, be revising and developing new National Strategic Plans for both HIV and Tuberculosis. These too have to be funded and implemented.

“As UN, we stand ready to render and mobilize the much-required support to Malawi through the UN reform initiative, and other strategic partnerships and mechanisms,” said Nzima.

Chief of Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, said Malawi Government will continue collaborating with development partners to scale up access to HIV prevention services for all people in Malawi.

He said the country needs to intensify HIV testing among people in high risk populations, who he said often include men, adolescents and young women.

“There is also need to link those who test negative to preventive services so that they remain HIV negative,” said Mwansambo. “The progress we have made will not be sustained if we continue to have new HIV infections.”

He said government is promoting abstinence, faithfulness between partners, use of condoms, voluntary male medical circumcision, elimination of gender-based violence, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission as some of the strategies for lowering new HIV infections.

This year’s International AIDS Candlelight Memorial ceremony was held under the theme: Intensifying the fight for Health and Rights. The memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV, is a grassroots mobilization campaign for HIV awareness in the world.

At the memorial ceremony, several stakeholders contributing to the HIV and AIDS national response in Malawi, including the UN, exhibited their interventions.

Participants and stakeholders interacting at the exhibitions.