Malawi has beaten the United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAids) global HIV targets, a development that has given hope to the players that the country could be on the right path towards eradicating the epidemic by 2030.
Dr Nyirenda telling journalists how Malawi is fairing.- Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times Dr Tenthani making a presebtation on the survey - Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times
The global HIV targets seek the countries' commitment to ensure that 90 percent of people living with HIV and Aids (PLHIV) are made aware of their status by 2020, 90 percent of people diagnosed of HIV to be on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) by 2020 and 90 percent of patients on ART be retained in care and have their viral load suppressed by 2020.
These targets set the frame for the Malawi National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV response 2015-2020 and concretely meant the aim was for 81 per cent of PLHIV should be initiated and sustained on treatment and that 73 per cent of them should have their viral load suppressed.
The Director in the HIV and Aids Unit at the Ministry of Health and Population, Dr Rose Nyirenda, disclosed in an interview on Thursday that Malawi has successfully beaten these targets and is currently inching for the new 95: 95: 95 targets by 2030.
Nyirenda made the remarks in Lilongwe during a media training on the impending Malawi Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (MPHIA) survey. The ministry organised the meeting in partnership with ICAP in Malawi.
She said Malawi has successfully put 91.4 percent of PLHIV on anti-retroviral therapy (ART), 91.3 per cent of the same have been retained in care and have also had their viral load suppressed.
She, however, disclosed that Malawi is off-track on the first first target, which is to make 90 percent of people living with HIV and Aids (PLHIV) aware of their status.
"We have failed by a whisker to achieve this goal; but this should not worry Malawians," said Nyirenda.
She assured journalists that, in partnership with other players, the Malawi Government is on the path to attaining all the new set goals by 2030.
At this point, Nyirenda stressed that the media has a crucial role to play in ensuring that Malawi attains these goals.
"The media has been very key in disseminating information on HIV and Aids. And we believe you will also play a critical role in the implementation of the MPHIA survey," she said.
The ICAP in Malawi technical director, Dr. Lyson Tenthani, said they have identified 15, 000 households, which will participate in the survey in all the districts except Likoma and Chizumulu Islands.
Tenthani disclosed that they decided to leave out the two islands on logistical considerations.
"In this survey, we intend to target more men because it has been established that they are the least tested for HIV status," he said.
Meanwhile, the National Aids Commission (NAC) has warned magicians (witchdoctors) and prophets and pastors of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches and Ministries against misleading HIV patients on ART.
NAC spokesperson Karen Msiska said now that the Commission is fully restructured, enforcement of the HIV and Aids Management and Prevention Act will take its full course and this is likely to result into the prosecution of witchdoctors and 'fake men of God' for disseminating false information on HIV and Aids cure.
"Some prophets and pastors have taken advantage of the current 13A regimen that quickly suppresses the viral load in patients to claim that they have been cured of the disease after the prayer. So, NAC is working with the mother body for the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches to sensitise them about the dangers of disseminating any information about HIV and Aids cure not accredited by the Commission and the consequences of discouraging HIV clients from taking ART," he said.