Over the last decade, Malawi has reduced its rate of HIV/AIDS infections by 72 percent, more than any other African country. US agencies that combat the virus hope to build on these successes with a five-year effort to improve HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. The effort is coordinated with Malawi’s government and will target seven districts across the country.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an NGO that focuses its anti-HIV work on mothers and children, is spearheading the effort. Funding is provided by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Centers for US Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
One of the biggest successes to date for HIV/AIDS care in Malawi has been the prevention of virus transmission to at least 7,000 babies. This has been accomplished through lifelong anti-retroviral treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women who are HIV-positive. The Foundation’s efforts continue to focus on pediatric preventive care. Its goal to achieve less than a five percent transmission rate from mother to child is well within reach.
Over the next five years, US organizations plan to provide other health care services in addition to HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. One million Malawians will receive counseling, 50,000 adult men and 400,000 pregnant women will receive HIV testing, and lifelong treatment will be provided to at least 25,000 women expected to test positive for the virus.
Despite gains over the last decade, AIDS remains the number one cause of death in Malawi, with about 100 deaths and 30 new infant infections each day. The Malawian minister of health, Catherine Hara, expressed hope that the seven targeted districts will serve as a model for widespread improvements in HIV/AIDS care in Malawi.
– Kat Henrichs