Malawi supplies free Aids drugs

BLANTYRE - Malawi has set itself a target of supplying 150000 HIV sufferers with free antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year, the head of the country's Aids commission (NAC) said yesterday.

BLANTYRE - Malawi has set itself a target of supplying 150000 HIV sufferers with free antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year, the head of the country's Aids commission (NAC) said yesterday.

"We are providing about 110000 people with antiretrovirals and we hope to reach the 150000 mark by the end of December, when we launch a massive scale-up of the drugs from September," NAC chief Biziwick Mwale said.

He said the increase would be underwritten by funding from the Global Fund against Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

Malawi first launched a free antiretroviral programme in 2004, which benefited only 5000 people.

Mwale said the increase in the scale of the programme meant that three-quarters of HIV patients who need antiretrovirals would be receiving the drugs by the end of the year.

"It's quite tremendous and we are on course to exceed our overall target rates, considering that we had less than 5000 people on antiretrovirals in 2004," he said.

Mwale said the number of Malawians going for voluntary HIV testing had risen to 500000 every year from less than 50000 three years ago.

The biggest impediment to the roll-out programme was the shortage of health workers, the NAC chief said.

Malawi, with a population of 12 million, has only 150 doctors on the state payroll, according to a recent survey by the health ministry.

Still a taboo subject in the conservative landlocked country, it is estimated that about 930000 Malawians are living with HIV-Aids, where the prevalence rate is 14 percent, according to UN Aids.

There are about 78000 Aids-related deaths every year. - Sapa-AFP

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