By Solister Mogha
President Professor Peter Mutharika has said he is determined to completely eliminate HIV and AIDS pandemic by the year 2030.
Mutharika made the remarks at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe during a meeting he held with UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations ,Ms Jan Beagle.
The President said for the past decade, Malawi has witnessed tremendous success in combating HIV and AIDs. Among others, Mutharika said the country has scaled up HIV treatment program considerably, with support of partners like UNAIDS, and pioneered the “Option B+” program.
He said coverage for HIV treatment has increased by 82 percent since 2011.
“One of our most notable achievements is that Malawi has achieved a 67 percent decline in Mother-to-Child infections. This is the highest decline achieved for all the 22 high priority countries in the world. Apart from that, new HIV infections and AIDs-related deaths have also dropped rapidly. These are significant achievements,” explained Mutharika.
He added, “Malawi now has over 600,000 people on Anti-Retroviral therapy and more than half of the estimated 1.1 million Malawians living with HIV are on treatment.”
But to ensure that the country is HIV and AIDs free by 2030, the President said he would be strengthening efforts towards universal treatment starting April this year and adopt the 90: 90: 90 strategy which simply means that 90 percent of the population must be tested, 90 percent of those living with HIV be put on art treatment and that 90 percent of those on treatment are made sure that their viral load is suppressed.
“I also wish to highlight that while development partners have shown remarkable solidarity with Malawi in partnering to address HIV and AIDS, my government is doing its part.
“For the first time, my government is contributing US$8.5 million to procure ARVs for the period 2015 to 2017. These are hard earned resources and I am making demonstrable efforts to ensure they are managed in a transparent and accountable manner.
“You will also be aware that I signed the global Heads of State football to pledge my support for the “Protect the Goal” Campaign.” This campaign is using football and music to scale up HIV prevention work among young people,” Mutharika said.
The President then hailed UNAIDS for providing technical as well as financial support which he said has helped the country manage the fight.
“30 years of the AIDs response in Malawi has taught us that working in partnership, with a clear and focused vision, (coupled with ambitious targets) and a human-rights centred approach can have meaningful results for people. These are important lessons for implementing the sustainable development agenda.
“I would like to thank UNAIDS for providing technical support for the development of Malawi’s new National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS and Malawi’s Prevention Strategy and for providing invaluable technical and financial assistance (together with UNFPA and UNICEF), to support the First Lady on her program, to ensure that we do not leave children and young women and girls behind in the HIV response, and that we address cervical cancer,” The president said promising to inspire Malawians about the fact that it is possible to end AIDS.
On her part, Beagle congratulated the Malawi government for the progress made in fighting HIV and AIDs.
She cited, decrease in new infections 62 Percent, reduction in transmission of the HIV and AIDs virus from mother to child, and adopting a B+ strategy as some of the main achievements the country registered.
She then assured of her organisation’s total support to ensure that the country once and for all eradicates the pandemic by 2030.
“We will try our best to your government eradicate the pandemic,” Beagle said.
UNAIDS has also been providing technical support for the development of Malawi’s new National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS and Malawi’s Prevention Strategy, to which APM added that Malawi’s National Strategic Plan was the first in the world, to embrace the UNAIDS targets of 90.90.90.
In a related development, Malawi was recently elected to the Board of UNAIDS, a situation president Mutharika says is a deserved international recognition of Malawi’s successes in the HIV and AIDS response.