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HIV/Aids affecting tobacco industry

HIV infection among Tobacco farmers i s contributing to poor quality leaf on the market.

HIV/Aids Coordinator for Auction Holdings Malawi, Leonard Chakwawa, said this during HIV awareness campaign with tobacco farmers held at Liwonde over the weekend.

Chakwawa said farmers in the Eastern Region have been affected by HIV infections which is affecting the tobacco industry.

He explained that when farmers are in poor health, the impact is noticed in the production of tobacco because the quality is compromised as less effort is put when preparing the crop.

He added that the situation has prompted Auction Holdings Limited to engage the farmers, transporters and other stakeholders by providing free antiretroviral therapy (ART) and other HIV services in all their floors.

Chakwawa said it is with healthy farmers that the tobacco industry can grow and contribute positively to the economy of the country.

“It is a big challenge here in the Eastern Region, especially during tobacco season when farmers have made sales; they go out with multiple sexual partners, hence putting themselves at a high risk. They are among vulnerable groups, therefore we introduced this programme in 2010 to institute health facilities in our floors where we provide free services.

“We are also affected as a company because these are the people we work hand in hand with. You heard from the estate owners that due to HIV pandemic, they are losing reliable tenants who used to produce high quality leaf. This has an impact on us as well,” Chakwawa said.

One of the tobacco farmers that attended the training, Henry Jambo from Mangochi, agreed that HIV has negatively affected farmers.

“We really need to get these awareness messages because most of us tobacco farmers are ignorant of ways of preventing ourselves from contracting the virus. Sometimes when we are affected we do not know how to get the free drugs and the counselling, hence the training is timely,” Jambo said.

Forty farmers from Mangochi, Zomba and other parts of the Eastern Region attended the training.

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