Out of 1 742 men who have sex with other men (MSMs) and Transgenders (TGs) who were tested for HIV in 2018, a total of 198 were found positive representing an 11 percent prevalence rate. This is above the national rate of 8 percent, a new report shows.
According to Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence the data reveals that there is need for comprehensive prevention, care and treatment service among Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) population.
The report says 200 of those that have tested HIV positive were immediately put on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) courtesy of Cedep Drop-in Centre initiative.
“In hard figure terms the year 2018 has seen great improvement in the coverage for both tests and treatment. In 2018, Cedep reached 3 237 individuals—1 996 MSMs and 241 Transgender persons [TGs]
“Through community volunteers these people were given messages on HIV prevention, sexually transmitted infections—STIs and Tuberculosis [TB] prevention and related messages and condoms and lubricants,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries for the Cedep Drop-In centres, who did not want us to named, said the centres are providing safe zones for MSMs and TGs to receive medical treatment and advice without being ridiculed.
“Since the introduction of the centres, a lot of MSMs have come out to register which has helped those that are infected to start treatment before their bodies become weak,” he said.
So far, Cedep operates drop in centres in Kasungu, Zomba, Dedza, Salima, Mulanje, Karonga and Nkhatabay to strengthen HIV prevention awareness and adherence to care in contribution to the Unaids and Malawi’s 2030 HIV and Aids goal known as 90:90:90.
According to a health worker at one of the drop-in centre sMphatso Mtilosanje the creation of a safer space for MSMs was helping to stimulate a reaction from a population that was being stigmatised.
“We make them understand the need to start ART once tested positive and that is why we are seeing some progress,” he said. n