HIV-Positive People Becoming ‘Political Force’ in Malawi, Other African Countries
Malawi on Thursday held its general election after a campaign in which political parties competed for the votes of HIV-positive people, "confirm[ing] the emergence" of the group as a "new political force in Africa," London's Guardian reports. Although stigma once led politicians to ignore HIV-positive people, many candidates during the campaign publicly admitted to having lost relatives to AIDS-related causes. In addition, virtually all of the parties' election manifestos contained HIV/AIDS promises, including programs addressing stigma and increasing treatment access (Carroll, Guardian, 5/20). About 14% of Malawi's population is HIV-positive, and 70,000 more Malawians become HIV-positive each year. Currently only 6,000 of the 150,000 people who need antiretroviral treatment in Malawi are receiving the drugs, according to Malawian Health Minister Yusuf Mwawa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/13). The ruling United Democratic Front party last week launched a five-year, $196 million nationwide program to provide free antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people (Guardian, 5/20). The program will be funded by a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. About 50 sites throughout the country will participate in the program, including hospitals run by the Malawi Defence Force and Malawi Police Service -- two agencies severely impacted by the disease, according to Mwawa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/13). The program was expected to be launched in July, and the early announcement caused some to accuse the government of "rush[ing] the timetable to win votes," according to the Guardian (Guardian, 5/20).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.