Malawi to put 500,000 on ARVs in 2010

Blantyre- Malawi (PANA) -- Malawi plans to increase the number of HIV positive pe ople on the national life-prolonging anti-retroviral (ARVs) programme from 270,0 0 0 to 500,000 in 2010, Vice-President Joyce Banda has disclosed.
Banda, whose office encompasses the Department of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS in the Office of the President and Cabinet, said to reach this feat, Malawi planned to e stablish its own ARV factory because currently, all ARVs are imported under the G lobal Fund on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
"Government is considering opening an anti-retroviral drug factory so that peopl e can access the medication easily," she said.
The National Association of People Living With HIV and AIDS in Malawi (NAPHAM) h as welcome the news, because, according to its Executive Director Amanda Manjolo , many people with HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, in Malawi were dying pre m aturely because they could not access the life-saving drugs.
Manjolo also said the news was coming at the right time, when contributions to t he Global Fund were dwindling with major donors to the Fund - like the US govern m ent - cutting down their contributions.
"We don't need to depend on others for ARVs because this is a matter of life and death," she said.
According to the National AIDS Commission, at least 14 per cent of Malawi's popu lation of 13.
1 million people have HIV, which was first discovered in the countr y in 1995.
Malawi used to follow a policy of putting HIV positive people on ARVs, whose CD4 count (viral load) has dropped below 350.
However, the country has recently adopted a World Health Organisation (WHO) guid eline that recommends putting people on ARVs even when their CD4 is above 350.
"We really appreciate the new guidelines because people were dying unnecessarily because they were not put on ARVs on time," said Manjolo.
But since virtually almost everyone diagnised with HIV must be put on the life-p rolonging drugs, the budget of procuring drugs will greatly increase, according t o Secretary for Nutrition and HIV/AIDS in the Office of the President and Cabine t , Dr.
Mary Shawa.
"We have to find the money as a country," he said.
Shawa was, however, upbeat that Malawi was winning the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS since there has been a marked reduction of new infections which has l ed to the national prevalence rate to stabilise at 14 per cent.
"The number of people dying from the disease has also greatly reduced because wi th ARVs, no one needs to die," he said, adding that the number of AIDS fatalitie s will dwindle further with the increase of people on the national ARV programme.

15 february 2010 18:48:00

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