National HIV/AIDS Policy

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Malawi Government
HIV/AIDS is by far the greatest development threat facing our nation today. Since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Malawi, in 1985, more than half a million Malawians have died of AIDS, and daily many more are infected. The epidemic has affected all sectors of our society, resulting in substantial loss of national productivity and a steep rise in the burden on individuals, households and communities. The increased impact of the epidemic continues to reduce the economic gains of the past, and to spread suffering and grief among people living with HIV/AIDS and affected households. Malawi has come a long way in responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. There is today widespread awareness of HIV/AIDS and how to prevent infection. Institutional frameworks and modalities have been put in place for an effective multi-sectoral response. All sectors have been mobilised in the fight, including the public sector, civil society, faith-based organisations, community groups and the private sector. These groups are playing their part in assisting orphans, caring for the sick, and combatting stigma and discrimination. Programme strategies have evolved over time to address issues of treatment and impact mitigation. At the same time, political commitment has strengthened, resulting in successful resource mobilisation. But the progress has been slow. Continuing with "business as usual" in addressing the challenges of the epidemic has meant watching scores of Malawians become infected or die every day. Every Malawian and development partner in this fight has a duty to adopt innovative ideas and to revitalise efforts to make a difference. This policy specifically calls for renewed action on the ground, and gives Malawi the opportunity to embark on a new path in this noble fight. The guidelines provided in this policy were not developed in a vacuum, but draw upon the experience and lessons of the past 15 years in combatting the epidemic. The policy balances carefully the issues of rights and responsibilities and public health considerations, and emphasises the continuum from prevention through care to treatment. The challenge now, especially among all those directly involved in programming, is to reorganise thinking and reorient efforts in this new direction. With less than 3% of adult Malawians currently knowing their HIV/AIDS serostatus, it is difficult to ensure early access to care and treatment or to plan for the future. Only a handful of Malawians in a few urban centers have access to AIDS treatment, and people living positively with HIV/AIDS continue to confront stigma and discrimination in their daily lives. The epidemic is increasingly developing a woman's face in Malawi, accelerated by inequitable power relations between men and women, young girls in particular. There is also an urgent need to strengthen human capacity across all domains of work. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the excellent work that has been done by the National AIDS Commission and its partners to make this National HIV/AIDS Policy possible. I am well aware that it has been a long journey, but the pleasing outcome has been our own 'home-grown' national policy on HIV/AIDS. It is my humble duty to personally invite all Malawian individuals, practitioners and development partners to make bold, responsible efforts to implement this robust policy in the face of this national emergency.