Malawi To Provide 150,000 HIV-Positive People With Access To Antiretrovirals

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Malawi plans to provide 150,000 HIV-positive people with access tono-cost antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year, Biziwick Mwale,chief of the National AIDS Commission, said on Monday, AFP/Sunday Timesreports.

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According to Mwale, there already are about 110,000 peoplewith antiretroviral access, and the goal is to expand that number to150,000 by the end of December, when a "massive" drug treatment programis launched. The program will receive funding from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to AFP/Times.

IfMalawi's treatment target is met, three-quarters of people in need ofantiretrovirals will receive treatment access by the end of the year,Mwale said. "It's quite tremendous, and we are on course andsuperseding our overall (target) rates when we consider that we hadless than 5,000 people on antiretrovirals in 2004," he added. Thenumber of Malawians who receive voluntary HIV tests has increased to500,000 annually from fewer than 50,000 three years ago, according toMwale. He added that the biggest challenge to increasing access toantiretrovirals is the shortage of health care workers in the country.A recent survey by the Ministry of Health indicates that the country,which has a population of 12 million, employs 150 doctors.

According to UNAIDSestimates, there are about 930,000 people living with HIV/AIDS inMalawi, and approximately 78,000 AIDS-related deaths occur each year.The country's HIV prevalence is about 14% (AFP/Sunday Times, 7/9).
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