25 July 2013

Malawi: Karonga Struggles With 17 Percent HIV/Aids 17 Prevalence Rate

Lilongwe — Karonga District Council in its Socio-Economic Profile identifies HIV and AIDS pandemics as one of the major contributing factors to an alarming increase in mortality rate of the district.

The situation in Karonga has contributed to high mortality rate amongst the productive sector of Karonga population, increased number of orphans and orphan headed households, overcrowding in hospital wards and overstretching of the available HIV and AIDS related services in the district among others.

According to HIV and AIDS Knowledge, Attitude, Behavior and Practices study report (KABPS), released this year (2013), the 2003 NAC estimated that Karonga had a prevalence rate of 17 percent of the adult population making it being the district with highest rate of the 10 percent at national level.

One of the Study Team member, Humphreys Mdyetseni said the study sought to establish the respondents' level of knowledge on HIV and AIDS issues and found that all 207 participants have ever heard about HIV and AIDS.

He said that GIZ-Malawi Government Programme on Democracy and Decentralization (MGPDD) supports some council to provide improved services to the citizenry within their jurisdiction.

He added that the councils include Chitipa, Karonga, Mzuzu City; Nkhotakota, Salima, Kasungu Municipality; Ntchisi, Balaka, Zomba City and Luchenza Municipality. Amongst the support given to these councils is the whole issue of decentralized response to HIV and AIDS.

"These councils are supported to fight against HIV and AIDS by developing harmonized implementation plans in line with the National Action Plans (NAF). These plans are meant to be evidence based so that the interventions are directed towards addressing real issues that contribute to the spread of HIV and AID." Explained Mdyetseni.

The report further states that low literacy levels in the population results in low uptake and utilization of HIV and AIDS information, border location of the district has resulted Karonga district being the conduit of increased cross border trade, influx of foreigners, increase in commercial sex, some risky cultural practices that are still being practiced in the district.

Unavailability of vital HIV and AIDS prevention information especially in the rural areas, the culture of silence, inadequate voluntary counseling and testing services and poor mobilization strategies for the same, reluctance by communities to mobilize themselves against the epidemic.

Mdyetseni explained that the fact that there is high awareness of HIV and AIDS in the district this is an encouragement considering that any tangible progress in controlling the HIV and AIDS problem rests on knowledgeable populations.

He added that despite the challenges faced in the district, the socio-economic report however acknowledges that there are various activities targeted in reducing the spread of the pandemic and for mitigating the impact of the disease.

He said that this recognises the role of the District AIDS Coordination Committee, a forum in the District Council charged with the coordination and provision of policy guidance to the district response within the national action framework.

The National AIDS Commission (NAC) working under the DNHA is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the HIV and AIDS national response in terms of programs of various stakeholders.

The district and city councils within the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MoLGRD) framework through the District AIDS Coordination Committees (DACC) are responsible for coordinating and implementing HIV and AIDS activities at the district and community levels.

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