Malawi Expands National HIV Testing Campaign to Prison System
Malawi plans to expand its national HIV testing campaign to include the country's prison system following several reports that more HIV-positive inmates are dying compared with HIV-negative inmates, the Nyasa Times reports. The announcement was made by Mary Shawa, principal secretary for nutrition and HIV/AIDS in the Office of the President and Cabinet, who also said that district health centers and prisons have been linked so that HIV/AIDS treatment can be accessed by inmates who test positive for the virus.
According to the Times, human rights reports also have indicated that inmates living with HIV/AIDS are vulnerable because there is no special diet available for those on antiretroviral drugs. Charles Kasambara, executive director of the Centre for Legal Assistance, said the conditions of Malawi prisons are "extremely bad" and in need of "government's intervention." Prison inmates often receive one meal daily, according to Kasambara.
Malawi's HIV/AIDS prevalence is about 12%, with approximately 85,000 people dying from AIDS-related illnesses annually, according to the Times. The national HIV testing campaign this year is targeting 250,000 people, and the country recently received a $20 million grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to increase its HIV/AIDS treatment efforts by purchasing more antiretroviral drugs and HIV testing kits (Moyo, Nyasa Times, 11/12).