BLANTYRE, MALAWI —
In Malawi, three US groups working against the spread of HIV have provided medical supplies to 85 health facilities. It’s all part of an effort to curb the spread of AIDS in the southern African country.
The medical supplies worth $142,000 are a joint effort by the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NGO the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
The donation is part of a five-year program started last September to improve HIV and health services and strengthen health systems in Malawi.
The Glaser Foundation conducted a study of 90 health facilities. The results showed that 85 needed specialized equipment.
Nicole Buono, the country director for EGPAF, said the supplies provided by the coalition of US anti-AIDS groups include blood pressure meters, stethoscopes, thermometers, weighing scales, stop watches, gloves and furniture.
“These are the basic medical supplies that health workers require to properly care for women, children and every one so that they should improve the quality of care and help to reduce the spread of infections," Buono said.
The World Health Organisation rates sub-Saharan Africa as one of the most affected regions with nearly one in every 20 adults living with HIV.
However this year'’ survey by the Malawi’s National AIDS Commission and the Department of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS indicates a 10 percent drop in HIV prevalence rate from 2008
So far, over seven million people in Malawi have been tested for HIV with almost half a million of those tested positive being put on life prolonging medication. The Malawi government is also putting all HIV positive pregnant women on treatment.
But CDC spokeswoman Beth Barr said although the United States is encouraged by the tremendous progress Malawi is making in fighting HIV, there are still gaps that needs to be filled.
“Although Malawi has fought this epidemic well," said Barr, "it is still faced with serious barriers in terms of human, financial and technical resources. The United States is committed to helping Malawi to continue its progress towards HIV-free generation."
Ntchisi district hospital is one of the health facilities in central Malawi that has received the medical supplies.
Dr Webster Chirambo, a health officer there, said the donation of medical supplies and furniture has come at a crucial time.
"For a long time," he explained, "Ntchisi district office had a problem buying furniture, medical supplies and equipment because of financial constraints and budget limitations.”
Malawi’s deputy minister of health Agnes Mandebvu Chatipwa appealed to the health workers to use the equipment safely and safe guard it to ensure maximum benefit to the communities they serve.
“Let us not forget the equipment donated has been purchased by the taxpayers of the United States government and they would want to support the Malawi government in creating a conducive work environment for the health workers in the country," she said. "It is therefore up to us to embrace this gesture by keeping an eye on the utilization of the equipment and its safe upkeep."
Among the goals for the project, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation plans to test 1.2 million people for HIV and enroll 72,000 people on life-long antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for HIV.