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Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

National Aids Commission’s familiarity bred contempt

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Someone once had the presence of mind to forewarn humanity to check against complacency, especially the one that comes about when people forget the importance of what used to be treasured simply because they have become used to such things.

Examples of people and organisations that paid a blind eye to such words and paid the price are many. However, it is not often that someone’s oversight, fuelled by familiarity, becomes an issue. More so because, even at individual level, many are cases when we take things for granted and pay the price. Just that we pay the price alone.

Sadly, leaders of some organisations that offer services to the public forget that, when they mess up, it is the nation that suffers. This is what happened with the leadership of the National Aids Commission (Nac), a key institution in the fight against HIV and Aids in the country, when they gave funds to people and organisations that did not deserve it.

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For years, Nac was at the heart of the HIV and Aids fight in the country and, through it, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, among others, benefitted. The fact that Malawi managed to enroll a significant number of people on antiretroviral therapy is testimony that Nac did a good job.

At some point, Malawi managed to contain HIV prevalence rate, among other things.

Things seemed to have taken the right direction until Nac’s management decided to play with fire by, buoyed by the spirit of familiarity, throwing all caution to the wind and ‘rewarding’ people connected to the country’s leadership with funds.

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The moment it became public that organisations that were not in the forefront of the HIV and Aids, malaria and tuberculosis fight were awarded, Malawi’s success story was mired in controversy. In the end, Nac was stripped of its Principal Recipient status by the Global Fund, and other players, including the Ministry of Health and international non-governmental organisations, took up that role.

We are, therefore, surprised that a parliamentary committee as well as a health rights body are advocating the recall of Nac as principal recipient. We find these calls to be misguided since we have not heard of any complaints relating to those who are serving as principal recipients now.

Nac had its chance, and it abused it. It played with the fire of familiarity and paid the price. Let those who are doing the job continue it— so long as they, too, do not fall into the same trap of taking things for granted. It is the people that suffer and not the perpetrators.

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