Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi says stigma continues to frustrate achievement of 100 percent reach of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people diagnosed HIV positive.
The minister was speaking on Monday at Kamuzu Stadium when he took a few minutes during halftime of a TNM Super League match between Nyasa Big Bullets (NBB) and Civil Sporting Club (CSC) to sensitise people to the recently introduced HIV self-testing kit.
He said people refrain from knowing their serostatus for fear of stigma from society.
Said Muluzi: “It is not because of lack of drugs or capacity in hospitals. It is because there is still a stigma, a worry, about being tested.
“HIV has been in our country for decades. There are many, many, reasons why someone might be infected with HIV, some of which are not down to a person’s risky behaviour.”
According to the minister, Malawi has about 1.1 million people living with HIV, but only 796 000 are on ART.
Muluzi said there is need to tackle stigma unanimously to get everyone on treatment.
“If you have had malaria, the chances are you had to go to a health centre and get tested to then get the right treatment. We must all now do the same for HIV.
“If we all know our status, then we can ensure you get treated. The treatment available today is amazing. They mean that if you are HIV positive, you can still live a normal life,” he said.
Muluzi added that Malawi is one of a few countries across Africa that are committed to providing free healthcare at the point of access.
HIV self-testing enables one to collect his or her own specimen (oral fluid or blood) to perform an HIV test whose results are known within minutes.