Malawi has made significant progress in meeting the 90-90-90 targets of ending Aids by 2030 despite facing challenges in addressing new infections, UNAids has said.
The 90-90-90 is an ambitious treatment target to help end the Aids epidemic. It states that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their status, 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90 percent of all people receiving ART will have viral suppression.
Speaking during World Aids Day commemorations in Salima yesterday, UNAids country director Nuha Ceesay said Malawi is doing well in meeting the global targets despite some challenges.
He said: “Malawi is on track to meeting the targets of ending Aids but we still have to deal with the 38 000 new infections that occur every year.”
According to Ceesay, 50 percent of the new infections are the youth.
He said: “The youth are comprising of fifty percent of the new infections every year. That is a major concern for all of us. We must walk out of the comfort zones and make sure that the areas that are more affected get the treatment.
“We also need to look at the affected demographics: how are they getting infected, who are infecting them and where are they getting infected.”
Ceesay said for Malawi to continue making strides, there was need to segregate information and look at how the country is performing in a population that is left behind such as children so that the country has the 90 across all age groups and sex groups.
He observed that documents such as strategic plans would be game changers in the fight against Aids, adding: “Much as we are doing well in the three 90s in fast-tracking ending Aids, but in between we must ensure that stigma and discrimination are eliminated to zero.”
On his part, Ministry of Health chief director of health services Dr Charles Mwansambo, who was the guest of honour at the event, said it is sad to note that some of the reasons HIV is spreading among the youth are poverty, inequality and unemployment.
He said government will not relent in devising new ways of ensuring progress.
According to Mwansambo, the latest figures as of September 2019 indicate that progress towards the 90.90.90 targets in Malawi is at 93.84.92.
“This means that out of approximately 1.1 million people who are living with HIV in Malawi, about 1 million know their HIV status; of those, about 840 000 are on treatment; of whom 770 000 have viral load suppression,” he said.
Mwansambo also bemoaned the country’s high population growth, describing it as “an obstacle to sustaining the gains made”.
He said a lot of new infections occur among women, men and youths aged 19 to 40 years.
Malawi Network of Aids Service Organisation (Manaso) board chairperson Maziko Matemba expressed concern over the alarming rate of infections among the youth, saying there is need for action to balance the gains in the fight against HIV and Aids.
He said: “We need to invest in prevention and local structures. The resurgency of these infections means that the youth are not getting the messages or those who are supposed to be disseminating the messages are not reaching out to the youth in the right way.”
National Aids Commission board chairperson Jones Chikoko Nkhoma said this year’s commemoration mostly focused on the gains made so far.
World Aids Day is commemorated on December 1 and this year’s theme is Communities Make the Difference, in recognition of the essential role that communities play in HIV and Aids response at all levels.
Currently, Malawi’s HIV prevalence rate is at 8.8 percent from over 13 percent in 2004.
World Aids Day, which was first observed in 1988, gives an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died from HIV-related illness.
In 2015, the global community met in New York and made a declaration which was endorsed by United Nations member States to fast-track ending Aids as a public health problem by 2030.