Even though HIV remains one of Malawi’s biggest threats, the country has managed to make tremendous progress in dealing with the virus, according to the Ministry of Health and research experts.
For the first time, the country is hosting the annual interest Workshop at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe with a record-breaking 568 people registered to attend the event which is running from Tuesday to Friday.
The full name of the interest Workshop is International Workshop on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis, and Prevention Research in Resource-Limited Settings. It is presented in a different country in Africa every year.
Minister of Health, Peter Kumpalume, who officially opened the workshop, said in the midst of resource constraints, Malawi has still come top as far as combating the virus is concerned.
“We have spearheaded the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Option B+ which has since been adopted by the World Health Organisation. There is no country that has done more than Malawi as far as this is concerned,” Kumpalume said.
He added that the test and treat initiative where those who have been diagnosed with the virus are put on treatment right away is also contributing to a reduction of new transmissions.
A professor of medicine at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Elly Katabira, said proper investments in areas like research have resulted in Malawi doing well in dealing with HIV.
“In the last 1980s and early 90s, Malawi was one of the heavily affected countries, particularly in terms of cases. The population was low, people were dying. But you have changed that. HIV is of course there, but things are far much better now,” Katabira said.
He added that while donors might have played a role in Malawi’s success, it all goes down to Malawians themselves who resolved to work hard to make things better.
Katabira paid special tribute to some researchers like Executive Director of the Lighthouse Trust, Sam Phiri, who he said have contributed a lot to a reduction in HIV prevalence rate.
Another researcher, Catherine Hankins, who is Deputy Director of Science at the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, said HIV research must continue because there still is a long way to go.
“Even when you are on treatment and your viral load is suppressed and you don’t transmit to anyone else, HIV is still there hiding out. And when you start your treatment, HIV comes out, it makes you sick, ready to be transmitted; so we have to find a way of getting to those reservoirs,” Hankins said. –