Phalombe — Dignitas International (DI), a health focused non- governmental organization has said it has engaged an overdrive gear in the race to achieving the United Nations' set targets of 90 - 90 - 90 goals in a bid to reach the same by the year 2020.
The 90 - 90 - 90 goals are a set of three ambitious finishing lines by 2010 set by the United Nations member countries across the world aimed at having 90 percent of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90 percent of people diagnosed with infection will receive antiretroviral treatment while 90 percent of all the people receiving ARVs will have their viral load suppressed.
DIs Phalombe District HIV and Aids Testing and Counselling Coordinator, Trevor Makata made the commitment on the targets during a stakeholders' meeting held in the district on Monday outlining its new plans aimed at fast tracking the steps towards 90 - 90 - 90.
Phalombe is one of the districts with high HIV prevalence in the country, standing at 15.5 percent against the national rate of 8.6 percent.
Makata said the organization has realized that the 90 - 90 - 90 race has been slow considering the timelines set for Malawi to achieve its goals which would contribute to the international efforts to end the epidemic.
"Among other strategies, we plan to have a door to door testing campaign where we expect to reach out to the population that does not know their HIV sero status so that at least 90 percent of the population knows their HIV status by the end of 2019," Makata said.
Commenting on the plan, Group Village Headman Mandeule from the area of Traditional Authority Kaduya described the initiative as a great opportunity for the people of the district.
Group Village Headman Mandeule, however, observed that while there were many organizations implementing HIV and Aids projects in the district, not many had made meaningful impact in his area, calling for more interventions such as the door to door campaign to reach out to the hard-to-reach groups in society.
Chairperson for Community Based Organizations' Network in Phalombe, Lewis Masangano blamed religious leaders for the deaths and deterioration of lives of people with HIV, alleging that some faith leaders discourage their followers from taking antiretroviral drugs.
"We keep on receiving complaints from people that there are some misguided prophets who are telling people to stop taking drugs and depend on prayers alone which is putting people's lives at stake," Masangano lamented.
"My advice is that we're all religious and we do not hate prayers, but let's not put other people's lives at risk just because they believe in our teachings," Masangano added.
Masangano, therefore, asked Phalombe Pastors Fraternal to take an active role in assisting the District Aids Coordinating Committee in tracing men of God who were dissuading people from taking ARVs and advise them on better ways of delivering their Godly messages.