Malawi Receives $20M Grant To Bolster HIV Treatment, Testing Efforts
A senior government official on Wednesday announced that Malawi has received a $20 million grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to expand its HIV/AIDS treatment and testing program, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The funding will provide additional antiretroviral drugs and HIV testing kits, according to Washington Kaimvi of Malawi's National AIDS Commission. Kaimvi said that 184,405 people had access to antiretrovirals as of June, adding that officials "hope to reach over 200,000 soon." He said, "We are doing well on the free AIDS drugs. It's been a scale-up, from 4,000 patients in 2003."
The grant also will help expand HIV testing, which is "vital" in Malawi, where 15% of its 12 million people have been tested, Kaimvi said, adding that the government's goal of 1.5 million people tested annually has not been met. AFP/Yahoo! News reports that the country has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of about 12% and that approximately 85,000 people die each year from AIDS-related illnesses (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/5).
In related news, the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in Malawi recently addressed concerns over stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS by implementing a rights-based HIV/AIDS project with funding from the National AIDS Commission, the Nyasa Times reports. According to the group's executive director, Undule Mwakasungula, CHRR felt "obliged" to address the issue of human rights when it learned that "people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS continue to be subjected to stigma and discrimination in offices, homes, communities and other institutions" and that many other HIV/AIDS interventions failed to address this issue. The project will target eight districts in the northern, central and southern regions of the country. Mwakasungula said that "negative sentiments" expressed by some community members and leaders "are only evidence of how communities view those affected by HIV and AIDS." Stigma and discrimination "have a negative impact on HIV testing as many shy away for fear of being discriminated and stigmatized once they are tested HIV positive," according to Mwakasungula. He added that a "high level of stigma" creates a "culture of secrecy" that affects access to services, namely counseling, testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and antiretroviral access.
CHRR in a statement said, "In view of all these set backs in the fight against HIV and AIDS, we at CHRR would like to remind the nation that discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS is a violation of their rights," adding that the group is advocating for legislation that would prohibit discrimination of people on the basis of HIV/AIDS status. The group also called on the government, faith-based institutions, leaders and other stakeholders to increase their educational efforts to achieve better understanding of the disease (Nyasa Times, 11/6).