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HIV hits more young people

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Maziko Matemba

By Wezzie Gausi:

The 2020-21 Malawi Population-based HIV Impact Assessment report has revealed high rates of HIV infection among young people in Malawi.

The household-based national survey was conducted among adults aged between 15 and above.

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The report indicates that 76.2 percent of young people living with HIV are aware of their status.

Among all the young people living with HIV who were aware of their status, 95.9 percent were on antiretroviral therapy.

Speaking at the launch of the report on Tuesday in Lilongwe, Deputy Minister of Health Enock Phale said it is worrisome that young people are on top of statistics related to new HIV infections.

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He said although the country has reported successes in the survey, gaps and unmet needs remain.

“Malawi continues to register new HIV infections which were estimated at 20,000 in 2021. These new infections are occurring among young people and adults aged 25 to 34 years.

“Furthermore, women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV with prevalence two times higher among women than men between ages 20 to 39,” Phale said.

United States of America Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Amy Diaz said it is concerning that about 12 percent of people living with HIV, largely young men aged 25 to 35 years, do not know their status.

“We, as a country, will continue to help this nation in the fight against HIV. We are delighted that, overall, Malawi is doing well in the quest to reach 95;95;95,” Diaz said.

The 95-95-95 for treatment is a concept of having 95 percent of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 95 percent of people who know their status on treatment; and 95 percent of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads.

Health rights advocate Maziko Matemba said policymakers have to go back to the drawing board and come up with solutions on how to help young people.

“This is a big blow as young people are the backbone of the country. We need to focus more on awareness so as to reduce cases of new infection,” Matemba said.

The goal of the survey was to assess the status of the HIV epidemic in Malawi as well as the coverage and impact of HIV services at the population level and to characterise HIV-related risk behaviours using a nationally representative sample of adults.

The survey involved 15,339 households, representing 91.7 percent of the households in Malawi.

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