Africans More Open About HIV/AIDS; Authorities Must Do More To Control Epidemic, Piot Says
People in Africa are becoming more open about HIV/AIDS -- which is helping to reduce the stigma associated with the disease -- but much more needs to be done, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Wednesday at the conclusion of a three-day visit to Malawi, Reuters reports (Banda, Reuters, 6/14). Piot and Suma Chakrabarti, permanent secretary of Britain's Department for International Development, on Monday traveled to Malawi to review HIV/AIDS programs in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14). "I have met people opening up and living positively with HIV, not only in Malawi, but in Tanzania [and] Mozambique," Piot said, adding, "This was not the case two years ago, and this means we are making progress." Stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS has been one of the "deadliest elements" of the pandemic, according to Reuters. In addition, Piot said Malawi was an example of how a developing country can implement effective HIV transmission prevention and treatment programs. The country's HIV prevalence has decreased from 16% in 2004 to 14% in 2006, according to Reuters (Reuters, 6/14). In addition, the number of people in Malawi receiving antiretroviral drugs has increased from fewer than 4,000 in 2004 to almost 50,000 in 2006, and about 500,000 people in the country have been tested for HIV, Xinhua/People's Daily reports (Xinhua/People's Daily, 6/15). "We are at a turning point in HIV response in Africa, and we are starting to see results," Piot said (Reuters, 6/14). Piot warned that complacency posed a "major threat" to strides that had been made against the disease (Xinhua/People's Daily, 6/15). He also said the reported figure of almost 100,000 new HIV cases in Malawi in 2005 was "unacceptably high" (AFP/Independent Online, 6/14). Chakrabarti urged authorities to include HIV/AIDS programs in their national initiatives. He also urged international donors to make sustainable financial and technical commitments to HIV/AIDS programs in Malawi (Xinhua/People's Daily, 6/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.