27 December 2015

Malawi: Aids Commission Takes 90 - 90:90 Targets to University Students

In a quest to popularize the 90-90-90 targets enshrined in the 2015-2020 National Strategic Plan (NSP), the National Aids Commission (NAC) is engaging university students to enlighten them on the targets.

The 90 90 90 targets look at making sure that by the year 2020, 90% of those living with HIV should know their status, 90% of those diagnosed with HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of those receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

Speaking when he conducted an engagement meeting with students from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), NAC's Youth Commissioner Chimwemwe Kaonga stressed the need for young people to fully understand the targets so that they contribute towards attainment of the set goals.

"As you are already aware, issues of HIV and AIDS are affecting us young people more than any other age group in this country. For instance; because of HIV and AIDS, young people are in a state of insecurity in terms of food, better nutrition and even low income at house hold level due to illness or death of parents or even the young people themselves becoming less productive due to AIDS related illness," observed Kaonga.

Kaonga further noted that young people who are HIV Positive or those whose parents succumbed to AIDS face stigma and discrimination in the communities, families and even in schools, a situation which is not acceptable.

"My fellow youths have faced and continue to face sexual abuse, harassment and sexual exploitation because of the so many challenges arising from HIV and AIDS. For example some are orphans and because of their being orphaned, they have been forced to live in a hostile environment, where they are being abused or sexually exploited," he said.

He bemoaned the challenge of HIV and AIDS where by some girls have dropped out of school and have been forced into early marriages, exposing them further to reproductive health challenges and HIV infection.

"Because of HIV and AIDS, extended family systems cannot cope such that some young people as early as 12 years old are family household heads and are looking after fellow children. This makes children and young people vulnerable to abuse and sexual exploitation and thereby increasing their risk to HIV infection," he argued.

He revealed that NAC is engaged in developing an HIV and AIDS strategy for higher education institutions in Malawi.

This is part of the national response to HIV and AIDS and in line with the National HIV and Aids Strategic plan (2015-2020), National HIV and Aids Prevention Strategy, and the National Educational Sector Plan (NESP), 2012-2017 whose aim is to halt new HIV infections primarily among the youth, and members of the academic and support staff in Higher education institutions.

During the event, Kaonga handed over national response strategic documents to the student community, and made presentations on Youth, HIV and AIDS as well as 90 90 90 targets.

Malawi is the first country in Africa to adopt 90 90 90 global targets through its new HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (2015-2020)-NSP.

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