Stakeholders in the fight against HIV and AIDS have expressed worry over high HIV prevalence rate among sex workers and have since called for concerted efforts in finding mechanism aimed at reducing HIV infection if Malawi is to eradicate HIV and AIDS by 2030.
This was revealed during a two day National Aids Commission (NAC) annual review of HIV and AIDS interventions tour in Blantyre and Mulanje.
Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication programmes manager, Grace Kumwenda, said out of the 943 sex workers, the institute tested in two districts of Mangochi and Blantyre this year, about 575 tested positive to HIV representing a rate of 61 percent.
Kumwenda noted that despite the alarming figures, a great number of sex workers in the country do not know their status as they are reluctant to seek HIV and AIDS services, a development which she said is putting at risk more of their clients and jeopardizing efforts aimed at eradicating the pandemic.
Last year, Malawi adopted the 90:90:90 approach set by Unaids which is aimed at ensuring that by 2030, 90 percent of People Living with HIV are identified, 90 percent of identified people living with HIV are initiated and retained on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90 percent viral suppression for ART patients is achieved.
“This is why we have opened drop in centers where they can access HIV and AIDS services, family planning services, cervical cancer screening, psycho-social counseling and treatment for Sexually Transmitted Disease and also on how they can report abuse to relevant authorities. This is to ensure those that test HIV positive are put on treatment and those who are negative remain negative,” said Kumwenda.
Executive Director for the Institute Simon Sikwese urged authorities to implement efforts that will help remove young girls from the country’s streets.
“There are girls as young as 13-years-old roaming the streets at night. We are worried about their future but we cannot fight this alone,” Sikwese said.
NAC board of commissioners member, Albert Mkumbwa, said he was impressed with efforts by partners in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Said Mkumbwa: “I have noted that when you work effectively with the key population and acknowledge the needs that they have, the response is overwhelming. Together we should indeed explore more ways on how we can reach out to the marginalised.”
The National Statistical Office 2014 Malawi Biological and Behavioural Surveillance Survey preliminary results put HIV prevalence among sex workers at 60 percent