HIV info round up for Malawi

[taken from Lifting the Lid on AIDS published in the Nation, Dec 2010]

All in all, I think this year has been a good one for Malawi. The government is pushing forward with some of the new WHO recommendations e.g. to start ARVs at higher CD4 counts (350) as well as new drug regimens. That means doubling the number of people on ARVs and putting them on more expensive drugs, a very costly exercise for a poor country.

In Malawi, fewer people are dying from AIDS, more people are getting tested and the prevalence of HIV has dropped but that’s no cause for celebration…there is still a lot more to be done. Use of condoms still remain low, circumcision is yet to become a national policy, obstacles remain for full mandatory implementation of the prevention of mother to child transmission, and stigma and discrimination continue to be a cause for concern for people living with HIV.

Other highlights of this year, Mary Shawa, Secretary for Nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the Office of the President and Cabinet, caused a bit of a stir when she said too much maize affects HIV transmission but more research on that study is needed. In March, prostitutes demonstrated in anger over an HIV criminalization bill that will do more harm than good. Aunty Tiwo and Steve Monjeza, thank you for putting in the spotlight same sex couples, something that we, Malawians, must stop blasphemizing about and find a modicum of acceptance for this lifestyle.

Looking into the future for 2011… there any hope for a cure….significant progress is being made with a vaccine but it will be several years before something viable will be available on the market. The microbicides trials are looking hopeful. But..more research and more funding is needed but while we wait, let us act on the knowledge we have…protect yourself, get tested early, and those on ARVs take your treatment regularly!