MW’s 38,000 new HIV infections annually should be back-pedalled

By Felix Mponda

I am afraid. Very much afraid. Of the alarming 38,000 new HIV infections that occur annually among Malawi citizens. Half of these infections affect the youth. Yes, Achinyamata!

This, I can say, is a scandal. A national crisis.

Just to give you a picture of what this means: 38,000 people can fill the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre. Thus the number of people who get infected with HIV every year.

The bad news is that our youths are doing a bad job in the department of unprotected sex. Where are the free condoms? Where is the ABC of HIV and AIDS being practiced?

Now, imagine this scenario: In the next ten years, some 4 million youths will be infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Thus a whole generation of sick people. Probably it’s a scenario that only gets played out in horror movies.

I didn’t cook up the 38,000 figure. It came from UNAids and was released on December 1 when the world celebrated Worlds Aids Day (WAD) , which this year run under the theme ‘Communities Make The Difference.’

Malawi celebrated the day in Salima, where UNAids officials, health experts , teachers, chiefs, clerics, vendors, sex workers, wananchi and top civil servants were in attendance.

But not all is bad news. Here is some good news: Malawi is not doing badly in the global targets of 90.90.90. by 2030.

The targets mean that by 2030, 90 percent of Malawians should know their status, 90 % of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained anti-retro viral therapy (ART) and 90 percent of of all people receiving ART will have viral suppression.

The country’s Chief Director of Health Services, Dr Charles Mwansambo, told the  audience that Malawi is at 93.84 and 92. in that order. He said Malawi should not relent on meeting the targets.

He reckoned some of the chief reasons HIV is spreading among youths were poverty, inequality and unemployment. But that’s another story, another time.

But UNAids Country Director Nuha Ceesay told the same Salima gathering that Malawi, despite meeting the global targets, still has challenges to deal with the new infections.

He said this was a major concern and there was the urgent need to walk out of the comfort zones and boldly deal with the challenges.

Malawi needs to do a lot of soul searching and Ceesay says we also need need to look at affected demographics: how the 38,000 people are getting infected, who are infecting them and where are they  getting infected. Thus a lot of homework.
Approximately some 1.1 million Malawians are HIV +,a about 1 million know their HIV status; about 840,000 are on treatment and 770,000 have viral load suppression.

The other good news is that HIV and Aids prevalence rate is at 8.8pc, down from 13pc in 2004 and when only 5,000 Malawians were enrolled on ARVs.

Malawi is also doing badly in the other department of procreation: Our women are fertile and give birth to an average of six children. Without serious birth control practices, experts say high population –17 million plus citizens by end of 2018– was an obstacle to sustaining gains made in HIV and AIDS control.

Population control is a very emotive issue in Malawi.

So, what are the solutions?

Health rights activist Maziko Matemba thinks Malawi needs to continue investing in prevention and local structures, for the youths to get the messages of prevention and sexual reproductive rights information.

But will it be the same depressing story when we celebrate WAD in 2020?

I don’t think so. We can win this war through ABC. Let the figures of 38,000 whittle down.

WAD , first observed in 1988, cardinally seeks to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS, to show support for HIV+ people and to commemorate those who have died from HIV related illnesses.

original posting on MBC