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More Teenagers Taking HIV Tests in Malawi, Survey Finds

September 16, 2008

An increasing percentage of teenagers in Malawi have taken an HIV test during the past two years, according to a Welfare Monitoring Survey recently released by the National Statistical Office, Malawi's Nation Reporter reports. According to the survey, the percentage of Malawians older than age 15 who have ever received an HIV test increased from 20% in 2006 to 34% in 2007. The age group surveyed is the most affected by the disease, which has led to losses for Malawi's work force and contributed to an increase in AIDS orphans in the country, according to the Reporter. Mary Shawa -- principal secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet responsible for HIV/AIDS and nutrition -- said that the increase in testing is because of government initiatives aimed at combating the disease.

"The initiatives government has set such as testing week, the decentralization of testing centers and the introduction and intensification of prevention of mother-to-child transmission are some of the factors that have led to this," Shawa said, adding, "The existence of mobile test centers and the lobbying of people to get tested through open days where testing facilities are available also encourage people to get tested." According to Shawa, the availability of antiretroviral therapy also has contributed to people's willingness to receive HIV tests.

According to the survey, among participants who responded that they had not been tested, 32% said they were not at risk of HIV, while 38% said they were not interested. The survey also found that 10% of participants who had not been tested said they feared the outcome of the test. Shawa said that to address these issues, the government will bolster community-based services and make testing centers more accessible to people who are unable to travel long distances to receive HIV tests (Nation Reporter, 9/15).

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