There is great expectation globally that Malawi becomes one of the first countries to achieve the fast-track elimination of HIV mother-to-child transmission target of five per cent or less by 2020 and complete elimination of paediatric AIDS by 2030, according to the country's First Lady Gertrude Mutharika.
She was speaking Wednesday in Lilongwe when she officially launched the "Free to Shine" Campaign as part of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA) efforts to ending paediatric AIDS by 2020.
Mutharika said together, the First Ladies in Africa recognize that eliminating vertical transmission of HIV and reducing new HIV infection among adolescent girls and young women, while keeping HIV infected mothers on antiretroviral treatment (ARVs), remains critical to achieving the 90:90:90 fast-track targets and ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
"It is pleasing to note that more than 80 per cent of people living with HIV are currently on treatment and the country is on track to reaching the UNAIDS 90:90:90 fast-track targets, having achieved significant results at the end of June, 2018," said Mutharika, adding: "This is what we mean when we say Malawi is well on track with the Free to Shine initiative."
Mutharika said Malawian women must shine through access to adequate health services while all children must shine through provision of paediatric AIDS treatment, care and support.
"Therefore, you will agree with me that Malawi has been a global leader in the elimination of mother to child transmission as early infant diagnosis of HIV has increased from 20 per cent in 2015 to about 71 per cent in 2018," said Mutharika.
United Nations Resident Representative to Malawi, Maria Jose Torres Macho, commended Malawi for making impressive strides towards achieving the UNAIDS 90:90:90 fast-track targets.
"Already by June this year, the results were 91 per cent for those that had been tested whereas 80 per cent of those tested were on treatment. As United Nations, we believe the Free to Shine initiative is key to fostering an AIDS-free nation," she said.
Torres reiterated the United Nation's commitment to working with the office of the First Lady, the Government of Malawi and all concerned parties, including the communities.
In his remarks, Minister of Health and Population, Atupele Muluzi said the Malawi government is committed to achieving the universal health coverage where the essential health package remains free for all.
He commended the office of the First Lady for being supportive to the health sector.
During the event, the First Lady also launched two documents the first of which was Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) Joint Review Synthesis Report.
The report provides detailed analysis of the challenges that Malawi as a nation needs to address to enhance effectiveness of the reproductive and maternal health programs and reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.
The second document aligned to the Start Free, Stay Free and AIDS Free Framework which provides guidance on critical interventions that Malawians must collectively implement to ensure the success of the Free to Shine Campaign as the nation endeavours to create an AIDS-free generation.