While launching Malawi's first-ever and long-awaited policy on fighting AIDS, President Bakili Muluzi acknowledged that his own brother died of AIDS three years ago. Muluzi said his family agreed to make his brother's cause of death known in order to help "change attitudes, break the silence and initiate open talk about sex and AIDS."
With 350 new HIV infections occurring daily in the impoverished southern African country, Muluzi said there is "no alternative but to openly discuss the serious problem that we have, so that we are able to teach people about the dangers of the disease." "Why hide?" he asked, adding that he has never heard Malawians openly declare at funerals that their relatives had died of AIDS-related diseases. "The fight against the killer disease could only succeed if we break [the] barriers of silence, stigma and discrimination."
Muluzi, who retires in May after his second five-year-term ends, implored Malawians to get tested for HIV. "How many of us know our HIV status?" he rhetorically asked, lamenting that just 3 percent of Malawi's 11 million people have gone for voluntary testing. Muluzi said he himself had undergone HIV testing and that "the good news is that it is good news." He also said young people should know their HIV status before marriage.
Muluzi announced that Malawi's new policy will offer the legal and administrative framework for monitoring and intervening of HIV/AIDS programs, funded largely by wealthy donor countries, the UN Development Program, and the World Bank. Biswick Mwale, head of the country's National AIDS Commission, said the policy would also put forward some $3 million to subsidize antiretroviral treatment.