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‘HIV/Aids remains biggest challenge’

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The Malawi Police Service (MPS) has said HIV and Aids continue to erode gains made by the law enforcement agency as some of the officers infected with HIV, and dying of Aids, are normally in the prime of their lives.

MPS Deputy Inspector General (Administration), John Nyondo, made the remarks in Lilongwe when he opened the Malawi Police HIV and Aids Workshop Bi- Annual Review Meeting.

Studies conducted recently indicate that MPS has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the country.

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Nyondo said yesterday that the prevalence rate is particularly worrying among new cadre of officers, who face challenges such as peer pressure, low risk perception, power and force syndrome.

He added that drug and alcohol abuse and multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships are the other challenges hindering efforts to stem cases of HIV infection among law enforcers.

“It is quite evident that HIV and Aids are still a concern to the service as we still see Aids-related deaths of our officers and members of their families; officers are still having many sexual partners. And this puts them at risk of being infected with the virus,” he said.

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Nyondo said there is need for concerted efforts in harnessing the interrelated fragments of science, action and a tangible commitment by all officers to end new HIV infections as well as promote respect for the rights of those infected and affected by the disease in the service.

“The review has, therefore, come at an opportune time when there is increased optimism that the end of the global Aids epidemic is within our reach,” he said.

Commissioner of Police (Centre), George Kainja, told journalists in October 2017 that, despite Malawi making huge strides in fighting HIV and Aids, the number of police officers living with the virus is high.

Kainja said a survey the service conducted recently showed that 22.5 percent of female police officers and 16.4 percent of male officers have HIV.

This surpasses the national HIV prevalence rate, which stands at 12.6 percent— down from around 18 percent— according to the National Aids Commission (Nac).

“With a lot of officers living with the virus, it negatively affects us as cases of absenteeism are high and some officers die while they are still very productive,” Kainja said.

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAids) says the country’s 12.6 percent is one of the highest prevalence rates in the world.

UNAids says at least 9.2 percent of the adult population – aged between 15 and 49 years– is living with HIV.

“An estimated one million Malawians were living with HIV in 2016 and 24,000 Malawians died from Aids-related illnesses in the same year. The Malawian HIV epidemic plays a critical role in the country’s low life expectancy of just 57 years for men and 60 for women,” UNAids says.

It further says an estimated 4,300 children were newly infected with HIV due to mother-to-child transmission.

Among people living with HIV, approximately 59 percent had suppressed viral loads.

The key populations most affected by HIV in Malawi are sex workers, who have an H IV prevalence rate of 24.9, seconded by law enforcers.

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