Malawi Health Officials Promote Voluntary HIV Testing

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Health officials in Malawi are urging the country's sexually active residents to receive voluntary HIV tests during a weeklong national campaign that started on Monday, AFP/Sunday Times reports. In a statement released on Friday, health officials said statistics indicate that 15% of the country's six million sexually active residents have received HIV tests and know their status.

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The statistics suggest that the majority of HIV-positive Malawians do not know their status -- a "situation that poses a great threat to prevention efforts" -- according to the statement. Official figures place the country's HIV prevalence at 14%, according to AFP/Sunday Times.

Mtemwa Nyangulu, an HIV testing and counseling officer at the Ministry of Health and Population, said that officials aim to provide more people with access to HIV tests during this year's campaign by going to rural areas and employing mobile clinics at 350 sites nationwide. During last year's HIV testing campaign, about 97,000 people received tests and 10.8% were found to be HIV-positive, according to officials. About 650,000 people in the country receive HIV tests annually, Nyangulu said.

"We want to encourage Malawians to go for the tests," she said, adding, "We also want to take advantage to reach them with correct information on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support." President Bingu wa Mutharika has said that he wants at least one million people in the country to receive HIV tests to determine the number of people in need of no-cost antiretroviral drugs (AFP/Sunday Times, 7/13).

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