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Malawi Targets 150,000 People With AIDS Drugs

Malawi has set itself a target of supplying 150,000 HIV sufferers with free anti-retroviral drugs by the end of year, the head of the national AIDS commission (NAC) said on Monday .

"We are close to 110,000 people on ARVs and we hope to hit 150,000 by the end of December when we launch a massive scale-up of the drugs" from September, NAC chief Biziwick Mwale told AFP.

The increase would be underwritten by a new batch of funding from the global fund against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Malawi first launched a free ARV programme in 2004 but only 5,000 people were initial beneficiaries.

Mwale said the massive increase in the scale of the programme meant that three-quarters of HIV patients who are need of ARVs would be receiving the drugs by the end of the year.

"It's quite tremendous and we are on course and superceeding our overall (target) rates when we consider that we had less than 5,000 people on ARVs in 2004" he said.

Mwale said the number of Malawians going for voluntary HIV tests had now risen to 500,000 every year, from less than 50,000 three years ago.

The biggest impediment to the roll-out programme was the shortage of health workers, the NAC chief added.

Malawi, with a population of 12 million, has only 150 doctors on the state payroll, according to a recent survey by the health ministry.

Still a taboo subject in the conservative landlocked country, wedged between Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia, some 930,000 Malawians are living with HIV or AIDS where the prevalence rate is 14 percent, according to UN AIDS.

There are about 78,000 AIDS-related deaths every year.


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