At least 30 percent of the 18 000 people living positively with HIV and Aids have stopped taking life prolonging anti-retroviral therapy (ART) in Mzimba, health authorities in the district have said.
Speaking in Mzuzu yesterday on the sidelines of an HIV and Aids training workshop Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) organised, Mzimba South ART coordinator Blessings Kamanga said the defaulting is mostly a result of religious beliefs and migration to South Africa.
He said: “You have people on ART that migrate to South Africa without passing through the hospital to get treatment and others who stop receiving treatment while in South Africa.
“We also have a lot of estates in Mzimba and when tenants come to the district, they come with transfer letters and we register them. But when they are going back, they don’t come to get transfers. There are also some people who think they are cured after being prayed for.”
Kamanga also blamed the default on long distances people travel to access ARTs in health facilities.
Mzimba North ART coordinator Fatsileni Kanyimbo said stopping ART treatment results in viral rebound and immune de-compensation which shortens life.
She said her office engaged church leaders as one way of curbing ART default.
EAM regional chairperson for the North, the Reverend Kingsley Nyirenda, cautioned religious leaders who are stopping their flock from accessing ART.
Malawi is one of the first countries to adopt the global 90:90:90 in its National Strategic Plan on HIV and Aids which seeks countries’ commitment to have 90 percent of people living with HIV and Aids know their status by 2020, 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV to be on ART by 2020 and 90 percent of patients on ART to be retained in care and have their viral load suppressed by 2020. n