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Press Release

Executive Director of UNAIDS Visits Malawi

Praises National Strategic Framework on AIDS, Pledges Support for Partnerships Fighting Epidemic

February 5, 2001

Lilongwe -- The chief executive of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has praised Malawi's national AIDS plan and pledged to help mobilize support to implement it more rapidly.

"Our aim is to help strengthen the various technical working groups now developing comprehensive programmes in a range of thematic areas," said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "Helping to build partnerships within these groups will ultimately accelerate the implementation of the National Strategic Framework developed under the leadership of the government of Malawi." Dr Piot was speaking during a three-day trip to Malawi which included meetings with non-governmental organizations and visits to a number of HIV/AIDS development projects.

The Framework maps out the priority issues requiring attention, including behaviour change communication, care and support, voluntary counselling and testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, youth, blood safety and prevention of other sexually transmitted infections.

"The process of developing the Framework has helped mobilize communities previously silent about HIV and AIDS," said Dr Nerayo Teklemichael, Chair of the UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS, a United Nations inter-agency working group in Malawi. "The process has brought together the knowledge and expertise of Malawians from a number of government sectors, including health, agriculture, education, defense, community development and finance, as well as from the private sector."

Malawi is in the grip of an epidemic that has infected some 800,000 people and in 1999 alone killed some 70,000 adults and children. To help fight the epidemic, the country is grappling with measures to increase access to a package of care for people living with HIV or AIDS that incorporates greater access to voluntary counselling and testing, psychosocial support, clinical management including nursing care, treatment for opportunistic infections and antiretroviral therapy, and the appropriate diagnostic and laboratory facilities. Affordable access to drugs remains a concern in Malawi, where high cost prevents the government from providing drug therapy on a broad scale.

Another key concern is the issue of stigma, although significant inroads are being made to dispel fear and discrimination.

"Malawi was one of the first countries to support the employment of people living with HIV or AIDS as UN volunteers in the public and private sectors," said Angela Trenton-Mbonde, UNAIDS Country Programme Adviser in Malawi. "People who are affected by AIDS play an active role in the response to the epidemic, at the community level, in government, and in the private sector."

In meetings with His Excellency Dr Bakili Muluzi, President of Malawi, and with senior members of the Cabinet, Dr Piot of UNAIDS addressed a range of issues, including the erosion of human capital and of the capacity of institutions. He also recognized the role of the private sector in the response to AIDS and suggested that role could be even greater.

New infections in Africa in 2000 totalled an estimated 3.8 million, compared with a total of 5.3 million worldwide. Some 25.3 million Africans now live with HIV or AIDS.


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This article was provided by UNAIDS. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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