Stigma blocking 100% ART reach – Minister

Minister of Health and Population Atupele Muluzi says stigma continues to stand in the country’s way to achieving 100 percent administration of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on people already diagnosed with HIV.

Muluzi was speaking Monday when he popularised the recently introduced HIV self-test kits during the halftime break of a match involving Nyasa Big Bullets (NBB) and Civil Sporting Club (CSC) at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.

He said people refrain from knowing their serostatus for fear of others.

It is not because of a lack of drugs, or a lack of capacity in hospitals. It is because there is still a stigma, a worry, about being tested.

HIV has been in our country for decades. There are many, many, reasons why someone might be infected with HIV; many of which are not down to a person’s bad behaviour, Muluzi said.

The health minister said, presently, the country has about 1.1 million people living with HIV but only 796, 000 are being treated.

To this effect, Muluzi said stigma is a vice that needs to be tackled unanimously if the country’s efforts to get everyone on treatment are to materialise.

If you have had malaria, the chances are you had to go to a health centre and get tested to then get the right treatment. We must all now do the same for HIV.

If we all know our status, then we can ensure you get treated. The treatments we have available today are amazing. They mean that if you are HIV positive, you can still live a normal life, Muluzi said.

He, however, said living a normal life is only possible if one gets tested and takes the right treatment properly.

Muluzi further said Malawi is one of the few countries across Africa that is committed to providing free healthcare at the point of access.

We recognise how important it is for us all to be healthy for Malawi to develop.

Our focus is to try and reduce the cost of delivering that healthcare to ensure we can continue to expand the range of free healthcare services across Malawi, Muluzi said.

During the match, football stars from both teams gave messages regarding HIV testing and how that has contributed to their wellbeing.

HIV self-testing is where a person collects his or her own specimen (oral fluid or blood) and then performs an HIV test and interprets the result either alone or with someone he or she trusts.

Source: MANA Online