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MSF leaves Thyolo after 18 years

After 18 years of implementing HIV and Aids plus Tuberculosis fight programme in Thyolo, Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF-Belgium) on Friday handed over the programme to the Ministry of Health.

The handover marked the end of what Chief of Health Services in the Ministry of Heath, Charles Mwansambo, and MSF Head of Mission, Amaury Gregoire have described as, a fruitful journey.

MSF started implementing the programme in Thyolo in 1997 and the district was selected for the programme then because of its high HIV prevalence of 21 percent against 14 percent nationally.

Speaking during the handover ceremony in Blantyre on Friday, Gregoire said MSF is contented with its achievements in the past 18 years and believes the government will carry on the programme and achieve more in the process of getting to zero HIV infection by 2030.

He, however, said moving out of Thyolo does not mean MSF is moving out of Malawi.

According to Gregoire, apart from moving to other districts for a similar programme, MSF is also targeting other groups such as sex workers and prisoners in its HIV and Aids fight.

“We are satisfied with both the job and the process in the achievement of our objectives. The process has been intense and the staff has used better the resources that we brought for HIV and Aids fight in the district and we ended up with a lighter approach,” Gregoire said.

Mwansambo said the government is grateful for what MSF has done to HIV and Aids infected and affected people in Thyolo. He said the ministry is prepared to take over the challenge.

“We are very happy to see what MSF has achieved over these 18 years. Outside government, they were the first organisation to come and introduce free ART for Malawians and beyond that they have helped us in implementing various systems in Thyolo since the pre-ART period. They started giving people care and treatment. So, it is excellent work and we commend them for that,” Mwansambo said.

The scheduled handover of first-line HIV treatment in Thyolo was completed in 2013, with the bulk of the HIV services now being delivered by the Ministry of Health.

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