7 December 2018

Malawi: Speaker Urges MPs to Declare Their HIV Status

Lilongwe — First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Esther Mcheka Chilenje has asked Members of Parliament (MPs) that will make it to Parliament after May, 2019 to be prepared to declare their HIV status during commemoration of World AIDS Day.

Chilenje made the appeal Wednesday when legislators commemorated this year's (2018) World AIDS Day at Parliament building in Lilongwe for the first time. The MPs will be observing the event annually.

She said the initiative will encourage constituents across the country to patronize HIV Testing and Counseling (HTC) services realizing that Members of Parliament represent their constituents in the august house.

The deputy speaker said despite Malawi registering a commendable progress in the fight against the pandemic, there is still some work to be done to achieve global target of 90-90-90 that was adopted in 2014 by UNAIDS.

"HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that people living with HIV and Aids have a productive life which will, in turn, assist in achieving the 90-90-90 set targets," said Chilenje.

The 90-90-90 target entails that by the year 2020 about 90 per cent Malawians are supposed to have been tested, by the same year, out of those that are going to test positive, 90 per cent will have to be on anti retroviral treatment (ART) and that out of those on ART, 90 per cent are virally suppressed.

She, however, noted with concern the increased cases of stigma and discrimination towards people living positively, saying the tendency deters other people from knowing their HIV status or patronizing HTC services.

"The major problem that exists amongst us is that even today we are living in the world where stigma and discrimination persist," said Chilenje adding the two have a devastating effect on people living with HIV and Aids and those close to them.

In her remarks, UNAIDS Country Director, Therese Poirier commended the MPs for passing the Human Rights based HIV Prevention and Management Act which was later assented to by His Excellency the President, Prof Peter Mutharika in February this year (2018).

"This successful enactment of the HIV and AIDS control and management act is a major step forward for Malawi in addressing HIV related stigma and discrimination and ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services in an environment free of stigma and discrimination," said Poirier.

Regarding progress in the fight against the pandemic, Poirier observed that as a country, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the First World AIDS Day campaign, it was important to recognize the progress made in reducing new HIV infections and numbers of HIV- related deaths as demonstrated by the increase in the number of people living with HIV who are receiving lifesaving ARVs.

World Aids Day was set aside to remember millions of people who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses and those that are living positively. This year's theme is "Know Your Status."

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